And The Cover Is In

FLP cover (2)Right after I posted my last entry, the cover of my chapbook showed up in my email. So here it is. I’m quite pleased with it. Thank you, Finishing Line Press. I’m looking forward to the March 23rd release.

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Chapbook Publication

Finishing Line Press is releasing my chapbook of poetry, Valley Meditation (with Palomino), March 23rd, 2016. Yes, that’s right: This March, the one right around the corner from El Nino–except that EN isn’t really hitting my portion of summer-deflated valley. Not really. A bit, though–a few days of substantial rainfall. Light showers are predicted for next week–oh how we can use them.

PB Rippey cover photoI’m so pleased Finishing Line Press is behind my little chapbook–mostly because they have a strong emphasis on publishing women poets and also because they published a male poet I admire, Paul Willis. My book is in humbling company.

The release date is a bit too far away yet for the cover design of the chapbook to be completed, I’m waiting to receive 2 of the book’s 3 blurbs (poets Chryss Yost, Millicent Acardi and Chris Abani)–but here is the cover photo FLP will use for design (taken by my sister, the art dealer with the artist’s eye).

Pre-orders are available from the press. I will post more information when the book design is up. You can like FLP on Facebook and follow them on Twitter (@FLPress) and don’t forget to check out their New Women Writers annual chapbook award.head2

Yours in poetry and future extremely welcome rainstorms,

PB

 

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Psychic

The nervous system.

The nervous system.

Somehow I now live in a neighborhood where the man next door is perfectly okay with hanging a sign from his rented eaves. PSYCHIC SERVICES, the sign declares–bold white on not-so-bold, pretty or eye-catching puce–followed by a phone number. When I first saw the sign I muttered: No. No, no, no. No. It was as if a university marching band had taken over a cute, hushed library. My husband and I have owned our home for six years. We live in suburbia, on a leafy street where families stroll regularly and dogs are walked religiously. PSYCHIC SERVICES. No.

The psychic phenomenon

The psychic phenomenon

When we phoned the landlord–our former neighbor, he had lived in the house next door for over 28 years before relocating to a nearby, more upscale ‘hood–he was shocked. WHAT!!!! he exploded, and what has followed are refusals and outlandish behavior on the part of his tenant and a note with the month’s rent promising a ‘gypsy curse’ on anyone attempting to cash the rent check, you know, basic craziness, right next door to us, right next door.

Scheme of psychic apparatus

Scheme of psychic apparatus

One critical day I pulled into my driveway, brows pinched from noticing that the neighbor had removed the sign from the eaves and hung it instead on a tall, out-of-date bus/van-like vehicle that was suddenly in front of that house. As I got out of my car, the man, marching around the front lawn with his wife and child, was shouting: SHE HASN’T SEEN ANYTHING YET! THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING! I told my son to stay in the minivan, stuck my head around the hedge and asked the man to please stop shouting and just take the sign down and make the bus go away.

My bad. He could have been drunk, or worse.

Psychic galvanometer or psychometer. Have you checked yours today?

Psychic galvanometer or psychometer. Have you checked yours today?

He told me with rabid certainty that he would never take the sign down, that he would ‘report’ me for harassment and file a restraining order against me. He told me that putting the sign on the bus was my fault because I didn’t ask him nicely to take the sign down from the eaves in the first place, but went straight to the landlord (actually the landlord did not tell the man that my husband and I complained—nor were we the only neighbors complaining—but the man felt confident enough to accuse me). His tiny wife, so very tiny, stood behind him, silent and  nodding aggressively. The man held his cooing pre-toddler as he berated me for ruining his life. I told the man that if he or his wife were actually psychic they would have known they would upset the neighborhood, wouldn’t they? I told him this silently because, as I said, if he really was psychic he would get the message all over my face. I did tell him outright that if he shouted at me again, I was calling the police. I told him to ‘knock it off’ and left that strange couple and focused on my son and our after-school routine.

Muscle

Pure muscle.

That evening, when my husband returned from work, he went next door and ordered the man to never, ever, under any circumstances speak to me again. My husband can be damn sexy. He shouldn’t have gone next door because the man could have been drunk, or worse, but he did and held a tape recorder up as he spoke to the man. My husband said: I am taping this conversation. He said: I am letting you know that you are not to speak to my wife again. The man objected and tried to hurl accusations, but my husband cut him off. I said (my husband said with great calm, the kind that demands attention because it is reason in the face of madness, at least that’s what I gleaned from the tape recording), do not ever, EVER speak to my wife again. Have I made myself perfectly clear? The man backed down and my husband returned home. The man has never spoken to me again.

The man has taken the sign off the bus. The sign, it’s tummy-curdling puce, is gone.

Now that's a sign.

Now that’s a sign.

The bus, however, has moved onto the lawn, along with a small, turquoise, topless jeep. An old pickup truck the man is constantly trying to start is in the driveway. He has cut down the landlord’s fruit trees for reasons unknown, claimed to have slipped and hurt himself on the back patio and that because of that shouldn’t have to pay rent, continues to pen ‘gypsy curses’ and I have no idea when we’ll be rid of him and no idea if his wife will ever wake up and protect their child, but I do know that the man has a history of violence towards women and perhaps that’s why he thought he could yell at me. I know he has this history because I discovered I know people who know people who perform background checks on people for people they know who are worried, or worse. I only wish the landlord had performed such a check. Hopefully the man will be gone by the end of the month. The landlord tells us this is the plan. If not—we will be calling Building & Safety to file complaints about the growing automobile collection next door. How do I know this to be true? I’m sssssssseyekick, baby.

And here is a giant kitten sticking his sweet face in roses.

And here is a giant kitten sticking his sweet face in roses.

I’m writing this partly to tattle and mostly because the experience with the neighbor has given me a short story idea and posting about gypsy curses and such helps write that story. I am writing this because I want you to know, because I didn’t, that even this deep in suburbia, so deep palominos are occasionally trotted down the street, shit happens.

Happy new year. I predict it will only get better. How can I make such a prediction so confidently?

Ssssseyekick.

 

 

 

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Suckers Galore

FullSizeRenderI’ve read, of late: All The Light We Cannot See, The Luminaries (I sense a pun), Station Eleven, The Orphan Master’s Son (I sense a rhyme–no, it is, it is a rhyme), Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Quest to Save the Oceans. I’ve read: The Snow Child, Library of Souls, The Sixth Extinction, and more outlined on my page THE LIBRARY. And I am reading this–this treasure with the gorgeous cover: The Soul of an Octopus. You must read about Athena. Why it’s ‘octopuses’ and not ‘octopi’. The intelligence and disparate personalities of octopuses. And just what those suckers are capable of. I am having a wonderful time devouring this book. Thank you, Sy Montgomery. Give us more.

 

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Sugar Cookies (‘Is Mars in Retrograde’ Edition)

Solar_sys[1]My son and his dad have a game in which my son pumps his legs hard and gets one of the swings on our creaky set to as high as he can without giving me a heart attack, and my husband rolls a hula hoop at him, which my son is to either avoid making contact with, or kick, which is what usually happens considering the dents in the hula hoop. As they played this game recently, a dusk favorite, I watered the newly planted (and proving to be delicate in the current heatwave) dymondia in our front yard. A woman screamed. A man yelled. I heard gun shots—three of them. Bam. Bam. BAM. I returned the hose to its spot by the hibiscus tree and hurried to the sidewalk, even though I shouldn’t have hurried anywhere but inside my house, my house in suburbia, my house on the fairly quiet and (for our desert-imitating city) rather leafy street the ice cream truck visits regularly. BAM. Okay, not a gunshot, I thought, probably a door. I peered down the sidewalk. An elderly woman lingered by a minivan parked in a driveway several houses down from ours, a house I knew children lived in, two kids younger than my son. The elderly woman saw me see her and turned her head as though speaking to someone. The someone appeared and waved at me. “Sorry, Sweetie,” he addressed me. “Her husband is sick,” the man said, spreading his arms wide andPlanet_Mars_Terraforming[1] shrugging. “There’s nothing we can do about it.” He began walking towards me. “Nothing we can do, Sweetie,” he said and my palm shot out and I stopped and silenced him with The Hand. I didn’t mean to. It just happened. And then I turned and walked into my house and into our backyard and told my husband what had happened, using words in such a way that our son would not be able to understand what the hell I was talking about.

“Why did he call me sweetie?” I asked, irked. Look: I’ve grown hard. My childhood was filled with slamming doors and men yelling so loudly I thought they were killing women I knew well. Seriously. I was sorry for their burden and craziness down the street, but I never wanted to see the man who called me sweetie and insisted that nothing could be done–again. “YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED,” my husband exclaimed, turning that into a Disney-ish song, “Killed for sugar cookies I love sugar cookies, so good, good, goodie,” as he rolled the hula hoop at our son. The hoop was promptly made airborne by giant 7 1/2 year old feet. 

Our son laughed. “Nice one, dad,” he said.

Dust_storm_on_planet_Mars[1]The next day I was shopping in Trader Joe’s. “YOU ARE STUPID! YOU ARE STUPID STUPID MAN!” I dropped the bag of organic frozen strawberries I was holding and looked up. People coming down the aisle had expressions of disgust and anger.  I hurried to the end of the aisle and over by the customer service counter saw an elderly man with a shopping cart filled with 3 large cartons of milk and nothing else yelling at the store manager. “YOU THINK YOU ARE SMART? YOU ARE STUPID! I AM TELLING YOU YOU ARE STUPID!” the man carried on. As he yelled and berated the manager, his eyes darted around the store, as if he knew people were watching? As if he wanted people to watch him? As if he expected some kind of support from us jerks just trying to remember what was on our shopping lists that we’d left in our cars? “GODDAMN YOU TO HELL!” the man shouted. I couldn’t bear it. Children were in Trader Joe’s, kids innocently shopping with their parents. I wanted the man to knock it off. I wanted to walk over and take his cart from him and roll it into the parking lot and turn it over so that the milk would spill out of the cartons and instantly curdle on the heat-baked asphalt. Like I said, I’m pretty hard now and that’s what I wanted to do. Instead, I left the store.

Oh, planet–pretty, pretty planet–how red you are as you defy us all. PlanetMars-VallesMarineris-VikingOrbiter-1980[1]

It was late. My son was asleep, my husband was asleep, I was in the kitchen making my son’s lunch for the next day, scooping coffee into the maker and setting the timer, filling stainless steel water containers, slicing melons, doing the things I do so mornings won’t be chaotic. “F***!” I heard and went into the living room where our new doggie  growled like an agitated Ewok, which he resembles, except he’s gray, not brown. I peered out the windows. The house across our street recently sold. It was billed as ‘California Contemporary’ and, in my opinion, overpriced, although because it sold (quite quickly) I suppose the value of our house has gone up. The new mistress of the house was clambering out of a giant white pickup truck I knew was usually driven by the master of the house. “YOU F***ING A******!” She stormed into her charming, recently painted new digs. He cut the engine and followed her inside, yelling, “BLAH BLAH BLAH!” “F*** YOU!” Their front door slammed.The_Seven_Planets_-_Mars[1]

And I thought: There are many realtors in this vast, overheated old valley. And then I gave the couple across the street The Hand, knowing, of course, that they couldn’t see me. But I gave them The Hand anyway.

Labor Day. I couldn’t tell which were the legitimate BBQ scents and which the trees burning in forest fires near and far. Our Labor Day was filled with chores and the walking of the dogs, board games and later Wii as I ironed clothes for the week for all of us. After my son was in bed, I remembered I’d left the box turtle in her outdoor condo and raced into the yard to retrieve her. I had just located her with the flashlight (she had sensibly tucked herself beneath sprigs of lavender I’d laced her condo with) when I heard a door slam in the recently rented house next to us–the nicely manicured little ranch house with the pool. A man yelled: “YOU ALWAYS RUIN IT! EVERYTHING IS GOOD AND THEN YOU F***ING RUIN IT! I’M SICK OF IT!” This proclamation was followed by much door slamming.

ASignalFromMars1901[1]I went inside our house, deposited the turtle in her terrarium, and joined my husband at the dining room table serving–despite our newly renovated office–as our office. My husband is deaf in one ear. What I say and what he hears is occasionally a source of vexation between us.

“It is to the East of us, and to the West. It is to the South of us and now North,” I said softly, partly just to mess with him and mostly because my hands were trembling and my legs felt wobbly.

“Hm?” he said, tapping on his laptop’s keyboard.

“I want to move,” I said, loud. “But nowhere Cheever-esque. Or worse.”

“Sugar cookies,” my husband said. He looked up from the computer and gave me a smile filled with warmth and empathy. “Sugar. Cookies. Now get to work.”

UDATE: I have not seen the sweetie man since, despite my daily dusk watering of the dymondia. The man and woman across the street waved to me and said ‘hi’. I did not give them The Hand, but used my hand to return their greeting. Next door, no doors have slammed of late and I exchanged pleasant smiles with the people there. My husband and I are both Pisces. Our son is a Scorpio. We like to look at Mars through telescopes.GPN-2000-001036[2]

We are happy.

And speaking to a realtor in December.

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Fire

We left our drought-socked stifling valley at 815am and by 2pm—Hwy 99 to orchard-heavyIMG_3129 back roads with stop signs, to another “highway”, to back roads with stop signs and colonies of slender giants we realized were members of the Stanislaus National Forest, to Hwy 120 drenched in sunlight and layered in 100 degrees of heat, quick! left! right!, down a dirt and gravel but mostly dirt road to a simple rancher’s gate—we arrived at a retreat by a river with a swimming hole and a swimming pool fresh out of Sunset Magazine and 2 happy dogs and a peacock and a great wooden bear outside our vacation house, and just in time for a forest fire.

“Tell me,” my husband asked Patrick, our host in a white sunhat and work clothes, a man constantly on the move, whether on foot with tools or driving a work-ATV filled with tools (“Don’t kill anything, not even a cockroach because it’s not a cockroach, it’s a beetle and we need those beetles for pest control and if you see the mouse don’t kill it, I’ll trap it, here’s how…”). “If there’s a fire, Patrick, what’s the protocol?” my husband asked as our son, only 7, first time in the mountains, real mountains, took off for the swimming hole, followed by the acreage’s magnificent dogs.

“Police, helicopters, plenty of warning, plenty of time, offroad to highways, ridge road, plenty of means of escape, always plenty of time,” Patrick replied as we blearily followed his hand gestures, knowing nothing.

Patrick encouraged us to get the hell in the pool. And we did, the heat (101 in the shade), immediately thinning into refrigerator air. And as I floated on a thing, my eyes told me the light changed—but the sky, blueberry blue, cloudless, so very Sierra in depth, sci-fi-ish in magnitude, said: Shh, baby, shhhhhhh.yo

I closed my eyes and breathed in the aroma of the pines so swingy around us.

After a dinner of spaghetti pie I’d made the night before and brought along, we decided to motor on into Groveland for dessert. Patrick popped up next to the driver’s side window as we moved slowly along the unpaved driveway. “You cursed me,” he groaned. “There’s a fire. 60 miles West. I’ll keep you posted.” And Patrick was gone. I glanced at the sky. “Oh,” I said. “I was right.” “Right about what?” asked my husband. “Crap,” I said, delighting my son (not meaning to).

yofireAs we drove towards Groveland, the smoke formed a gray tornado. “That fire is not 60 miles away,” I said, and my husband nodded. “Incredible!” he murmured and I pulled over so he could take a picture of the smoke, which had acquired a pulsing, dark pink hue around its middle, the rest of the wide body hidden by members of the Stanislaus Forest. We kept on. “I think Groveland is on fire,” I said as my husband shouted: “Water plane!” Our 7 year old looked up from his Lego Minecraft figures and demanded to know what in heck was going on. Ahead, cars were stopped. I immediately thought of the movie WWZ, Brad Pitt insisting that in times of disaster (or worse) studies show it’s better to keep moving. “Mama is just turning the car around,” I sang, wrenching the minivan into a U-turn. Screeching to a stop on the highway’s shoulder, I ordered my husband to get out and take another picture because now the tornado looked exactly like the forest fire it was: Red as mosquito bites and terrifying. As my husband trotted away from us down the highway and another plane soared overhead, dipping towards the smoke, I thought: My dad would have driven us offroad to the core. I thought: I would have hated that. I thought: Odd I’m not scared right now because I’m terribly scared of forest fires. It’s true. I’ve had nightmares in which I’m running from them. I looked at my beautiful son in the backseat. “Hello? Where’s Dad?” he asked. I looked in the rearview mirror—it was filled with fire tornado. I honked the horn. “Dad’s just coming,” I sang, not scared,but before my husband had shut the passenger door I was gunning the minivan away from chaos.

At a diner near our sanctuary of river and swimming pool and dogs and peacock and Patrick bedecked in hat and toolbelt, we ordered dessert. My husband was eager to ask locals about the status of the fire. Our hostess, in Bermuda shorts and t-shirt, after telling us about her recent, successful gastric bypass surgery (“Right on!” I said and her grin was blatant joy and relief), informed us the fire was in Hell’s Hollows and moving towards a town we had passed through that afternoon—a split-second of a once-boom-town currently riddled in falling down historical structures. A town that had survived the gold rush, somehow, although less than barely–a durable town, California history, threatened. “We’re used to fires,” our hostess insisted. Our waitress said her husband was at the scene. “He works for CalTrans, directing traffic. No evacs yet,” she let us know as she served my son a chocolate sundae. “How far away is Hell’s Hollows?” my husband asked. The women looked at each other, shrugged. “About 15 miles,” our hostess estimated. When their attention was on other customers, my husband mouthed to me, I could never live here.

Patrick met us as we disembarked from the minivan. “Closer than I thought,” he said, a bottle of artisan beer in one hand, a printout from a local news station in the other. “But it’s moving away from us. I’ll keep you posted until you go to bed. I’ll be up all night. Feel free to knock on my door if you have questions.” “Okay,” we said. “Thanks.” At our sanctuary? Only Patrick, in his sweet, wooden shotgun house, had Internet. And phone access. Even Verizon couldn’t reach us. “Okay,” we surrendered. “Okay.”

IMG_3150The moon was a circle of pocked piecrust. Around 4am I sat on the covered patio, on soft blue cushions, watching it turn red from fire smoke. Something screeched in the Stanislaus forest. A bat zoomed into the patio, did zany circles around my head, took off. Fire! Why wasn’t I afraid? I closed my eyes. I saw us eating breakfast in friendly light, right where was I was sitting. Okay, I thought. Okay.

4am: The moon was the eye of Sauron stuck in silhouettes of spiky trees.

6a.m. I opened the front door and invited the morning breeze into the River House. Taped to the door was a printout of fire updates. The last one, reported around 530a.m., stated that basically the fire was under control. Homes had been evacuated, but no homes had burned and there were no injuries. I stepped outside and glanced thataway, past the statue of the wooden bear and metal Dali-esque sculptures decorating the roadside. I heard the river, its soft, persistent variations on shhhh. Patrick’s house was closed up and super quiet. I hoped he was sleeping after a long night’s vigil. The peacock appeared. I gave it some bread.IMG_3158

We packed up for the day and headed to Yosemite for the first time and witnessed sacred rock and river and waterfalls that blew our minds. Some blackened trees from previous fires, but no smoke tornadoes. Some thunder, a flash of lightning that had us clambering quickly out of the Merced river, but no flames. Just. Effing. Beauty.

And a summer peace.

Despite the gazzilion milling tourists.

IMG_3253

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Business As Usual, Please

Flores[1]My dad passed away last September, although ‘passed away’ sounds too ‘death-lite’ for the actual event. If you’ve never been at the bedside of someone moving on, all I can say is, it’s probably not possible to brace yourself for the experience. Try to breathe and hang in the best you can. And: when the priest visits your house after the fact and cries, even though he didn’t know the deceased, when the priest erupts in sniffles, give. Whatever you can. A final kernel of compassion. Why? Because months later you’ll feel happy that you comforted a stranger dabbing his eyes over your father while you felt like your brain was falling out of your head. Same goes for when the housecleaner arrives sobbing. And when the caregiver, one of the many caregivers, lets you know she’ll gladly take your dad’s spoons. The power in that last kernel of giving is something you will always remember, and take strength from when that picture of your dad on your refrigerator suddenly traps you for more than several minutes. I mean, you know, maybe. Maybe you will feel a certain strength as you wipe your eyes and carry on making lemonade for your son. Just maybe.

My dad passed away and familial BAU (Business As Usual) rocketed off reliable rails and my mom had a 2nd stroke and my therapist of 6 years died suddenly and mortality placed itself like a dark censorship rectangle over MY eyes, and I could not see to write. A. Word. Much less revise–which, as you know, is the path to all promising writing summits.

O Death. Your subtle (thorough) thieving, you gloved ransacker, you–jerk…aster But 10 months later I am emerging and there is no trick to this (unless continuing to exercise is a trick, or eating nantes carrots like they’re candy, or joining my son in enjoying his summer vacation)–I just feel like I can revise again, read a book again (even if it’s on the Kindle), watch something other than all 6 seasons of The Good Wife (Your Honor! I object!). Something like Last Tango In Halifax (because they’re all so impressively self-centered, aren’t they?).  Or Enchanted April for the millionth time.

The Snow Child, A God In Ruins, Field Notes From A Catastrophe, Station Eleven, All The Light We Cannot See, The Arrivals, The Girl In The Road, The Girl on the Train, Graceling, Go Set A Watchman, Silent Spring, The Sixth Extinction, My Brilliant Friend. The Husband’s Secret, which I abandoned, so actually it doesn’t count. 1 Elin Hilderbrand. And Later Poems, Adrienne Rich–a constant-companion type of relationship with this book.  From bildungsroman to dystopia to fairytales, mysteries and exceptionally eerie catastrophic scenarios (fiction and non-fiction). If there is irony in my reading frenzy, it’s not lost on me–just tucked into a deepdarkdrawer until further analysis becomes imperative. Maybe.

Over 10 months later I’m realizing that BAU is a very good state to be in and not to be taken for granted. BAU, lifted from Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes From A Catastrophe, the most frightening non-fiction book I’ve ever read.earth

Yours in revision and hopes for future, productive-in-a-positive-manner BAU for all,

PB

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Spring Poem

In honor of the Spring full moon.

Full Flower Moon

May (mostly), the petticoat swirl of open
-ing meadow, pinkening bud. I say:
rose, peony, phlox. And I say: petal-
shorn, plucked, blown until only the head
remains, one pale sticky oval crushed by u-
niverse so formidable it upgrades the dead
into blossoming. Old flower-face—you! Cruel
palette-eye! Where, where is your color? I say:
dearest, warmest, sugar-phlox fairy. Dare
I say: more. It’s May (mostly). And I
am showered and sweet beneath puckered
moonlight, stem right behind an ear. I am thigh-
deep in meadow and I must know: are you
dressed? Staunch, seasonal gloom cut? Dancy
gleamy blue-fires broken through? Show me.
The moon requires it. I confess: May.
More! I confess the kiss: a peony, phlox,
a peony, phlox, a peony, phlox, the
rose.

Gecenin Koynunda, "In the Night's Soul"

Gecenin Koynunda, “In the Night’s Soul”

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Breaks

Enthusiastic tidepooling in Spring.

Enthusiastic tidepooling in Spring.

What I love about Spring Break? For a week I am Fun Mama–instead of: get dressed, brush your teeth, grab your Spidey hoodie, let’s go, go, go, homework, karate, shower time!, etc. It’s nice to be all: Ooooh—let’s scooter around the park and hit Panera for lunch. Or: let’s go  tidepooling, then Jacuzzi at Aunt Jen’s! And such. For a week. Truly.

Spring Break ends and I have assignments and goals and my son has school and my husband has assignments and goals that are so intense he talks to me like this: I do not want, what I mean is, what I want, however, when so and so, what I mean is, what I want, yet when that dang idi–er, person, but what I really mean is, we are going here, here and here and that’s final, but nothing is ever final, but anything is infinitely possible and arrgh-

Which is when I hand my husband a veggie BLT on Ezekiel bread with ‘organic’ pretzels and a hard boiled egg tucked into an environmentally friendly stainless steel bento box and urge him to ‘go get ’em’ and he does and we have so much history here, now, in our hot, vast valley, as parents–new jobs, nighttime writers, learning so much about being upfront and personal with ourselves, with ourselves as parents. We learn so much these days that life doesn’t cease to be interesting—or maybe life is interesting because (right before we met each other) we never thought we’d be married, much less married for almost 9 years, and parents. O my old Gypsy Life! How I do not miss you.

Yours in naps and further revision of all that is important, yours in little boy lunches and making pancakes on weekday mornings,

PB

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Snooze House

Lately, instead of writing at night I’ve resorted to rising early in order to revisereviserevise certain projects and I’ve realized:

The loudest sound in the house at 5am? Despite our small zoo? And the programmable coffee maker’s generous peeps? And the refrigerator creating Arctic ice floes, cubed? My fingers on the Lenovo’s keys–until my husband returns from his pre-dawnlit jog with the labrador, both bursting into our house with wild jangles and stampings and a whoosh of crisp air that will be stale and spoiled and 95 degrees in only a handful of hours, in March, i.e., March-the-Inferno, in Global Warming, which, as we all know, doesn’t exist (keep reading).

And here is what I’m reading:

Lorrie Moore blurbs it. Must be true. I hope.

Lorrie Moore blurbs it. Must be true. I hope.

And here is what you’re not reading (although if you are, you know, let me know–I haven’t started it yet):

Right on!

Right on!

And here is one of the best links you will ever click on, whether you believe in Global Warming or not–because you simply cannot argue with the ocean. If you don’t ‘get’ that you cannot argue with the ocean, I suggest you find a leaky skiff immediately and launch it towards a very blue (Atlantic, Pacific, whatevs) horizon–with a professional on board who will lecture about life vests and tidal currents and provide you with everything Robert Redford had in ‘All Is Lost’.

Oh–and thank you. For getting in the fucking boat. (Excuse me)

Yours in cold-water-soaked-washcloths-perpetually-standing-by-on-the-nightstand,

PB

 

 

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This Just In (Elusive World of Poems Edition)

I don't know them, but I love them. From Wikimedia Commons. Searched for "Bridesmaids Beach", hoping for something correlating to my post. Lovely.

I don’t know them, but I love them. From Wikimedia Commons. Searched for “Bridesmaids Beach”, hoping for something correlating to my post. Lovely.

Bigger than George Clooney’s marriage. Bigger than my son eating cheese flavored Chex Mix for the first time yesterday (wish it had been broccoli, but at least he’s branching out…double edged sword, this pickiness business), bigger than the beachwalk I recently embarked upon (despite that walk’s inspiring company and wave-racing doggie),bigger than organic jumbo free range cage free chicken eggs or George Washington Carver’s numerous inventions with the peanut. Sorry, no—not bigger than anything to do with GWC. And never, of course (so obvious why write it) bigger than Jane Eyre. However, a new poem disrupted my life’s daily routine. Writing/revision and gym time were discarded. The dishwasher, stacked in soiled stuffs, remained silent. The turtle was placed into her daily bath, but cobwebs wafted freely from that super high place in the dining room. No worries. A new POEM. Odd that the poem has everything to do with the recent past vs. heart-pumping current events, but I’ll take the poem. Especially because I don’t roll my eyes upon reading it after avoiding it for 3 days.

I’ll take it.

I finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, am finishing up Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, both books prompting dreams centered around (what else) obstacles of survival: alien invasions (hiding simply best course of action here), Central Park in depths of night (pretty much as bad as alien invasions), and, last night, a nightmare involving a pack of bridesmaids trotting gaily down a sunny beach backed by treacherous, crumbling cliffs only I noticed and was promptly, upon noticing, navigating in a red, silky strapless dress, barefoot. I woke up with my breath a claw in my throat and a sense of cliff dust on my soles. My first thought was: Dammit, these are clean sheets.

Poem, poem: I’m doing my best by you. Hang in there. And I will, too.

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HNY

IMG_0402

The riding boots are tucked in a closet, certified riding hat high in the laundry room, askew on the top shelf of that one Igloo coolers-infested area; the crop hangs next to the dog’s leash and jogging stuffs by the front door–forever slipping to just where the door opens, creating blockage, and after each fall  it’s hung back up, no questions asked, no logic examined; the jodhpurs are tightly folded in a drawer and that faintly-red stripe along my spine? Still glows, a (faintly) disturbing red stain. I didn’t get right back on after soaring (ungracefully–and totally my own fault) to the sand, but my excuses were x-rays, a month of painkillers, and I have a kid who needs his mom intact. When my son is a bit older, I’ll return–hopefully getting right back on one of my own, a rescue I will greet daily (whether to ride, stroll or simply chat with).

Treating a Gentle Barn giant to a carrot.

Treating a Gentle Barn giant to a carrot.

If you haven’t visited Gentle Barn you might consider doing so this year, either at their website, on Facebook, or in person. Every story posted about each of their rescues is a success story, or one in the making. Hope thrives on GB’s oddly beautiful property in Santa Clarita, and there’s more: proof of hope lives there, and love, and who doesn’t need hope and love?

2015: Let’s rock, with the intent to gallop. And indulge in sweet treats, such as: carrots, exercise, ocean, learning and love. And here is a penguin (my son named him Iceberg–no gentle giant, but will do for now–plus, he doesn’t need food–and he makes us smile): Happy. New. Year.
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Step Away From All Chariots (Burning Edition)

Antidote to road rage, oui?

Antidote to road rage, oui?

CONTENT WARNING: Vague to extreme silliness–and back again.

Since 1990 I’ve been visiting Ana S. every other month, less when I was younger and single and living on a leaky  sailboat and a semi-working actress with miracle hair never listing towards anything shy of chariot fire–an ancient Egyptian chariot, on fire–but here in the 21st Century, the Age when I come across as older than previously taken-for-granted (occasional hair strands glistening the gray of horror movie mist), I never miss an appointment, even though obtaining highlights means driving 75 miles. Because Ana S. won’t chop off my hair when I ask her not to and she listens to me when I describe side bangs, because she’s been helping my hair remain healthy since the ’90’s and so of course I trust her and will drive 75 miles to remain blonde-ish. You understand. Tiny pleasures–on a gargantuan scale.

Last Saturday I hit the road at 630a.m., stopped for gas, coffee and zoomed onto the freeway. After just getting on and switching lanes, I sensed the car on my right hovering. When I glanced over, an elderly gentleman shook his head at me with an exaggerated scowl, then focused on the road, dismissing me, I guess. Why??? I thought. What did I do??? What was my crime??? Did he despise Hyundai Sonatas with sunroofs and fantastic visibility? Did he think I was someone else? Was he following me and for how long? How long was he waiting for me to glance at him? It was early. There were hardly any cars at any of my stops, even the coffee place was practically empty. There was simply no one to offend. My joyous day of racing North to sit in a hairdressing chair was starting off with a rude stranger giving me his ugly scowl. And I wanted to honk my horn and flash my lights and drive inches from his slightly droopy bumper, I really did. That scowl worthy of retaliation on the scale of firebombed chariots.

But I took a breath and made myself laugh. Not unkindly–noise aimed at all the silliness so randomly rampant, silliness directed at me, in me. Oh, ho, I laughed. PB! You. Ohhh, ho…75 miles of forced laughter later I sat in the silly chair as foil was folded into my hair and I received my silly highlights and shine and it. Was. Great. And there is no poem in any of this, except possibly in the chocolates Ana S. offered me when I was under the dryer, but I did survive a potentially dangerous road rage incident. I am here, able to carry on as a mother and a wife and someone who sporadically has her poems published. Ah! It’s good to be grateful. Oui? Perhaps being grateful is the best revenge. That and highlights so shiny the gods must wear sunglasses—or maybe just Isis.

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Screens

hobbitonStaring at  my writing, I heard what I thought was our younger cat pulverizing the bedroom window’s screen, as he does when he’d like to be let inside, despite the little Hobbiton upside-down-U’s we had cut in pertinent doors, just for felines. But when I ran to investigate (because writers will love distraction), I discovered the sounds were coming from inside a dresser drawer. When I pulled the drawer open, our older cat, Al, blinked at me accusingly. I’d coffin-ized him. Not sure for how long. I rushed him to his food bowl with apologies and a scoop of holistic wet mush the pet person said was crucial for older cats. I watched Al for a bit, worrying. He ate, he bathed, he curled up on the dog’s bed and slept, hours…

I try to think of it not as writer’s block, but as a stressfully strict, seasonal (Fall Fall Darkest Fall–in Southern California!) gestational period. I’m coffin-ized–eyes wide open, roof-span right there, each natural whorl so close. I want to see, I insist (tired). I want to see.

Hobbiton exhibited at an airport. Or was it a train station? Public Hobbiton. The mind wanders...

Public Hobbiton.

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Relief (Death’s Placards Edition)

The Duchess, Hans Holbein the Younger, Dance of Death, 1538. Pretty sure if Death was playing a violin when my dad flew away, it was Mahler.

The Duchess, Hans Holbein the Younger, Dance of Death, 1538. Pretty sure if Death was playing a violin when my dad flew away, it was Mahler.

There are fairly positive placards to be discovered–usually somewhere behind closed eyes–when Death (not waltzes in, there was no waltzing in my dad’s case) knocks down continents to claim, abscond-with, pose in a peasant blouse splotched in redwood forest mulch and maidenhead ferns as Mother Nature. The placards read:

NO MORE PAIN P.S./A GOOD THING
or:
IS AT PEACE/OR SOMETHING LIKE IT OMG (scrawled in a hard, lava-red script bleeding through even the darkest dream)
or:
WHATSA MATTER WITH U: LIVE LIVE LIVE
or:
EFFING HELL EFFING JUST SAY THE BIG EFFING GOODBYE U BIG GRIEVING GOOF
or (my favorite):
ALLISWELLALLISWELLALLISWELL

All IS well. Emailed memories and snippets of our dad from friends of his we haven’t seen since we were kids fly in–breath-swiping missives. Much good is suddenly clarified about one half of the complicated unit that raised my sisters and me.

And so I let my breath out for the first time since somewhere deep in late July.

The sound resembles a mildly breaking wave (w/distant seagull call).

Yours in sweeter dreams and a violin-playing Death (O Holbein–so crafty–for me it would be Beethoven’s 3rd, first movement–et tu?),

PB

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Big Waves, Big Moon (Aftermath Edition)

photo (2)There was no one in the emptied bedroom except for me. I stared at the almost blank walls and atrocious carpeting, stuck in a grief coma. The front door banged. And everyone arrived, I think all at once, it seemed all at once. They showed up with cold beer, Jameson and ginger ale, chardonnay and ice, plump cookies, gourmet cheeses and butter crackers and someone showed up with a roasted chicken and someone a bag of locally made, cilantro-fragrant fried tacos because grief and mourning make you hungry, famished, actually, and thirsty for a substantial drink at 11:30 a.m. The tiny, petal-precious great-granddaughter made the rounds of arms, watched over by her cousins while we emptied drawers and closets and loaded cars with my dad’s final cherishables and prepared the haul-aways to be hauled away as we drank and ate and laughed and sniffed, the barely-autumn light reaching us in fractures and sparkles through windows whose shades we removed and one of us had to duck anytime he neared the whirling ceiling fan. By four o’ clock we were exhausted and just then the ashes arrived, but not the urn, because mix-ups happen even with mortuary companies, apparently–despite the delicately crucial subject matter. We placed our dad’s unceremoniously (if not anti-climatically) boxed ashes in a shopping bag and trekked out of his condo and across the street to the hundred steps leading down to the beach, two of us carrying surfboards, some of us balancing body boards on our heads and one of us carrying my dad. We found our spot and set my dad on a striped beach towel with a perfect view of his family as we raced into the Pacific and swam and splashed and screamed and surfed off all of the day except memories–we rode those well into the night, my boxed father passed from lap to lap as stories were shared and discoveries acknowledged and children crashed on hoodies. moonpalmStay, stay–the night carried on and each time someone spoke, a touch of panic/touch of magic, a dully (though as if specifically) beating moon with a fringe of sea mist our constant watcher, sole-eye, power-face, bug-riddled lamp and, this night, old whisper, old friend.

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Partial Poem For The Day

1danapoint (2)If thou art worn and hard beset with sorrows
that thou wouldst forget,
If thou would read a lesson that would keep thy heart from fainting
and thy soul from sleep
Go to the Woods and Hills!
No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.

Sunrise on the Hills–H.W. Longfellow (of course)

Also: Go to the beach, Dear Ladies, go to the beach!

 

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Delirium

aearly5Labor Day sunshine? Ray-gun-in-the-face light. I drove South to my dad’s with the minivan’s windshield blasted by holiday sun and ratcheting temperatures. Even the beaches were infernos. Near Garden Grove, a little black car zipped onto the 405 Freeway, over a couple of lanes and into mine. I hit the brakes. My palm pounded the horn. I shouted the shout that immediately makes one hoarse, flashed my brights. The car’s driver held up a hand, waved feebly—baffling me—and sped into the carpool lane, hitting light speed.

My dad’s condo: sun-spackled, not dreary despite the stained carpeting he refused to have replaced, scorching (what condo by the beach needs A/C), governed by the oxygen machine’s pump. I joined my sisters, the three of us tending a felled giant who sometimes knew us from the hospital bed replacing his own, mostly not. “Hey, he needs more drugs,” my older sister told those she phoned as my dad fidgeted relentlessly and swatted at imaginary foes. “This is normal,” we were assured, and then told to up dosages.

The caregivers cried. The hospice’s priest we’d never met entered my dad’s room, nodded as he looked around (photos of us and our dad through the recent ages) and cried, quietly. The housecleaner showed up and she cried. A lot. So much crying, I remarked to my older sister. And we looked at each other, tearing up. And we looked away, at the patio, set with flowers for my dad to look at and hummingbird feeders doing their job and a birdbath my sister found at Gelson’s—a stunning luminous number with a glass bowl embedded in popsicle-orange koi.

My dad died. We thanked the caregivers, gave one of them a batch of teaspoons. She asked for spoons. The spoons comforted her. Apparently she’d had meaningful conversations with my dad over the last six weeks. Apparently he’d had meaningful conversations with all of his caregivers, and we were glad. We gave many things to the Goodwill, drove them over. We sorted and divided and divvied kindly. We are, apparently, made that way, my three sisters and I.

Kind.

Confession: I did not comfort the crying hospice priest, although that was my first impulse.

To each her/his own grief.

And the grief is relevant.

RIP Mike Bush

RIP Mike Bush

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Overcast In The Valley

Valley rose before cinderblock.

Valley rose before cinderblock. Okay, better than any graffiti.

Craving a view, I rode the escalator to the 3rd and final floor of that Macy’s and speculated on valley through tinted windows grand enough for a museum.

No thunderheads. Not the merest ribbon of blue sky. No sun. Mounds of gray clouds spread from Macy’s to the badly-chopped-cauliflower cliffs of Chatsworth, blackening over the Santa Susana Pass and its hint of semi truck glide.

It is rare to see my valley dull and perhaps that is why I decided the view was beautiful. Or perhaps I was delusional because of the surprise change in the weather–the dew on my browning grass that morning, the lack of glare filling the windshield as I drove my son to school, the reprieve from all that is made uncomfortably obvious by relentlessly scathing sunlight, the valley a bucket of constant light, filled, radiating, charring flip-flops and skin, melting dashboards and plastic eating utensils left on park benches too hot to sit on, everything here big and sizzling and over-bright, even in November–in fact, what Fall?–and certainly every February, our one freak overcast day making me giddy as I studied monochromatic scape usually ringed in glow so eerily orange it resembles atom bomb fallout, lifting, perpetually.

Gang graffiti on cinderblock in muted light rather than blaster-laser-in-your-eyes light? Interestingly vain. The seagull that should have been having its feathers ruffled by Zuma breezes perched instead on an Escalade in the parking lot, watching pigeons strut the gloom? Poetic–possibly (come on, bird–go home). The tobacco kiosks in the strip malls boulevard to boulevard, those tiny, barred fortresses persisting? Architecturally intriguing. A dullness as nagging as a mild hangover, got to me.

I reached into my boho bag and pulled out a small notepad and Pier One bling pen. I gazed through the Macy’s windows and took notes. Bruised, woolly and flannel were not allowed into the notebook. What was allowed will hopefully become a poem one (no doubt) bright, bright sunshiny day.

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Tropical Impression

I thought: I’ll blog every day. But then we landed, left the sweetly palms-infused airport and drove straight to the ocean.

"Stop the car! We must swim" type of water.

“Stop the car! We must swim!” type of water.

I know as well as anyone how distracting ocean is—sunrises, sunsets, all the dancing, lightening blue in between those hours–and distraction was the norm on our island. I barely finished morning coffee before our feet were in glassy, snorkel-and-mask-navigable water. I rose in the middle of the night and sat on the balcony, staring at glowy incoming froth and surge, my heart synching with wave rhythm, sky the dark, sparkling gown of a Disney princess with an edge. We traveled with snorkeling gear and body boards in the trunk at all times, scouting out those beaches where we’d hold hands and glide through shallows, snorkel-gasping at the darting rainbows beneath us. Each dusk, after dinner, we were there again, knee deep in ripples, silhouetted by sky fire as sea turtles nibbled lagoon bits a couple of feet from our toes. Who can write when vacationing by/in such ocean?

Sunset swim.

Sunset swim.

Not I. Not me, either.

Any attempt at writing the first line of a poem or a holiday blog post turned me into a Merwin poser. Or possibly a Twain poser. Example of posing: Line above involving Disney princess gown. Example 2: The swaying-gold-and-green-pocket-watch that is an island slash master hypnotist.

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When what I felt the entire trip was so pleasantly, profoundly Muse-stirring.

Surge. The beyond-the-reef blues. Aquarium-shallows. No sharks.

This is not a boast: I’ve always considered myself to be very good at hind-sight. Time will tell.

And below is a monk seal, endangered, sleeping. Shh. He probably just ate. After monk seals eat, they must sleep before swimming again, or they’ll throw up and possibly die. Kind of like me (Bukowski? Ah, I wish). Good night, Merwin! RIP, Twain. Thank you for your deductions and truths pertaining to tropical islalnds. Sometimes, from that one Mulholland Drive “scenic” lookout, the distant hiss of the 101 Freeway is an ocean speaking. Though never paradise.

Digesting.

Digesting.

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Never Fails

Text conversation with my writing mentor as I attempted to send her crucial re-written novel pages before her plane took off, pages I was anxious for her input on so that I could meet a writing deadline ASAP, pages she generously agreed to read, despite the fact that she was in the middle of traveling (I love her):

Mentor (txt): Hurry we are taxi-ing down the runway.

Me (panicking before computer): Where did the document go??? Okay, attach the–but where is it??? Okay, attach–WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SEND BUTTON? WHY IS IT HIDING???????

My fingers became slugs. The world slowed down so much, I could feel it spinning. Days, perhaps weeks passed as I evolved into someone who has never used a computer in her life.

Me (with screams): Oh my god, there it is! SEND! SEND! SEND!

Me (txt): Gah just sent!!!
Mentor (txt): Got it!!!!

Me (in crumpled heap on floor as dog’s cold nose sniffed my face): Blrrrrrgh…

And here is a bird:

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Mornings Become Them (Birds Edition)

Birds, birds everywhere.

Birds, birds everywhere.

615am–I get out of bed to let the dog outside and get back in bed forgetting to let the dog back in and he barks and I shoot out of bed not wanting the dog to wake the first grader and I let the dog inside and I get back in bed and the dog curls up on his saucer-bed by the bedroom bookshelves and for a second it’s quiet and then the house finches in the trees outside our bedroom window ignite in song, which wakes the keet who starts calling himself a good bird, such a good, good, bird, which wakes the Dragonbeast conure who shoots out of his yellow fuzzy cave-bed and rings his 6 dangling bells with attitude and I get out of bed and wheel the birds into the kitchen, flicking on the light before I leave them there so they won’t think I’m abandoning them, even though I am and they know it, and I get in bed and my iphone’s cello starts playing and I hear my husband’s limbs rustle sheets as he fights consciousness since he was up freelance writing until probably 3am so I get out of bed and the dog and I leave that scrumptious slumber-room and I shut the door behind us just in time to hear the coffee maker’s timer go off and at least there’s coffee and since I’m the only one in our house who drinks it I can be sure it’s just the car-oil-with-vanilla-cream way I like it and I pour myself a cup and sit before my Lenovo and focus on changing the climax of my children’s novel, making a mutant antagonist even more antagonistic, and after a bit my eye is caught by the bouquet of now wilting sunflowers w/roses my husband surprised me with for no reason a week ago and as the conure picks at a strawberry and the keet nibbles his slice of organic apple and the best light of the day for our house, morning light, illuminates interiors (and even wilting flowers) into paradise, I sip my coffee and wish for nothing (except, perhaps, more Muse, Muse, Muse…but who doesn’t wish for that…er, Her…). Good morning. Happy writing.

 

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All Schedules Thrown

IMG_6201 (2)And, suddenly, for a week, until summer camp started, the newly ex-Kindergartner and I were face to face over our morning pancakes, not an elementary school deadline in sight. “Let’s go to the beach!” he suggested. We did. “Museums!” We went there, too. “Waterpark!” Well, almost, but Hurricane Harbor had such bad reviews on Yelp (Hurricane Horror, Septic River…) I decided against it. We rode the ferry to Balboa Island instead–which is definitely not the same as shooting down a water slide, but surprisingly thrilling all the same. I was reminded of the years before my son started elementary school–the many outings we had–me slyly educating him on marine taxonomy at the beaches (“That’s an invertebrate, Mama!”—mwahaha!), me with him in my lap, wrapped in my arms, both of us watching the ocean change color (“Magenta, Mama!”—mwahaha!), me educating him on orchid varieties in the botanical gardens–and quickly realizing I know nothing about orchids, IMG_6204except that they’re pretty. This time, though, for a week, my son educated me, outing to outing—on the soaring capabilities of the Draco lizard, that dinosaurs are all around us because they’re birds, that he is perfectly capable of walking over to the surf from the towel I’ve placed on the sand BY HIMSELF and frolicking in the very-very-extremely-shallows BY HIMSELF without drowning or getting carried out to sea by a riptide or great white shark. For the week, we reconnected in a way I will always make time for in the future, when First Grade starts up and all that’s coming out of my mouth are nagging reminders. I’ll surprise him with dinner at the beach. Or we’ll do homework in a park with an accompanying picnic. Mix it up. Before it’s suddenly some unfathomable year and he is driving off into the sunset where colleges   live.IMG_6206

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Sad Santa Barbara

beach1My son and I were visiting his cousins when it happened. My husband, at home in Los Angeles, called me early Saturday morning with the news. I felt the same shock thousands of others were feeling in my town. The sun didn’t come out Saturday. The cloud cover was literally the pall we all felt.

But I have a child and he has young cousins. So I took them to breakfast by the beach and then I took them on the beach and we found a large crab shell, pointed at dolphins just off shore, and ran like crazy. So I took them to the Sea Center on the pier and despite having been there a million times the children eagerly studied shark egg sacs through a microscope, put on a marine puppet show in the booth provided by the center, and for about 5 minutes my son explained to me that sperm whales dive deep and eat giant squid and have scars on their bodies from fighting the squid.

In the gift shop, the salesgirl asked me how I was. I just had a feeling she was a college student and I asked her how she was holding up. She immediately told me she lived in Isla Vista, had heard the gun shots just as she was sitting down to eat dinner, knew people who were killed by the ‘lunatic’. “I’m in shock,” she told me. “It’s a nightmare.”

The children didn’t hear any of this. I told the salesgirl to take good care.

mission3Later, we walked my son and his cousins over to the Santa Barbara Mission to look at the iMadonnari chalk ‘paintings’ in progress. The paintings were beautiful, filled with positive messages celebrating our planet. It was dusk. The mission glowed serenely in its lighting. From the top steps, we could see all the way down through the city to darkening ocean.

On the steps, I closed my eyes and sent a prayer, a feeling, a bit of light, as much as I could muster.

mission1

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I-5 Pretty

In a previous post I regaled our drive from Los Angeles to parts further Northeast known as Tracy, Stockton and Sacramento. Namely, that interminable length from the end of the grapevine to whatever that KABOOM exit is that has Corral in the title, but all the locals call it Coral, even though it’s spelled Corral…

5on3I didn’t take any pictures of the I-5’s generous weather display that I described in the post, which is good as I was driving–but my husband took 2 pictures, something I discovered only yesterday, roughly 2 weeks after the trip. I think. Time is a strange invisible fog around here—is, furthermore: compressed eons filled with daily heroes, homework challenges for extremely young individuals, and many internal debates on sanity vs. naps–because napping means missing-out-on getting things done, in addition to strength. Feel the scales tip.

Bottom (helpful) truth? Beauty is everywhere (I hope)? Even on the I-5, along that grueling, Dante-ish bit of freeway between here and Tracy.

Yours in endless revision,

P (revising everything) B

5two

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