On Rejection

Recently I was lucky enough to have a conversation with someone I deeply respect and I was moaning a little about rejections I’ve received lately. The person suggested I stop callxmas-bouqueting them ‘rejections’ and refer to them instead as ‘No Thank You’s’. Because unless they tell you specifically (the person continued), you have no idea why they are passing on your work, not really, so why let it get you down? REJECTION implies a kind of OMG-I’ve-been-kicked-to-the-curb message to yourself. But you’re not lying in the gutter wasting away. You’re up and running like never before. If you receive a ‘no thank you’ in your inbox, it’s just that. And if you believe the Universe, or God, or whatever deity or force you believe in, is truly taking care of you, has your back, then any ‘no thank you’ makes perfect sense. Only the best for you, the person urged. Even if you’re an atheist. Remember that.

And I said: Thank you for the advice.

And meant it.

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Brief Reverie (w/Iron)


As I was ironing my husband’s dress shirts last night: channeled a story about 3 lifelong friends who unfriend each other on Facebook due to arguments over whether certain basic inalienable rights should be basic and inalienable at all (buying organic vs. Tyson or supporting NRDC vs. Energy Transfer Partners or ‘liking’ Bill Nye The Science Guy’s FB page vs. Fox News or why the word ‘science’ complements the word ‘climate’ or the fact that the world is round, not flat), issues brought to sudden forefront due to a countrywide election resulting in the win of a fascist, obsessively tweeting dictator. THIS IS ON YOU! the one friend who did not vote for the fascist dictator shouts in text before severing friendships and removing herself from Facebook altogether with screams of rage and confusion. She proceeds to fume and worry and eventually not even listen to NPR as she raises her sweet, organic-foods-eating, people-loving 9 year old son in the new, dark regime, meticulously gathering wholesomeness fallout from a country’s shocking explosion/implosion, hoarding it in apron pockets, gifting nuggets to her family, keeping her front doorstep swept and tended and lit, in focus.

Ho, ho, ho!

Could never happen. I should switch to writing dystopian fiction.






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s24Newsflash: It’s December, 2016.

I know because the seasonal falling snow plugin is up and running on WordPress.

Tonight, we welcomed in December’s Holiday craziness with snowman carousing and a bit of tubing on Leo Politi’s old property in Elysian Park. My son, my husband and I teetered on hot chocolate sugar highs and high-fived at the top of the tubing slide. We couldn’t take a family photo in the well advertised giant inflatable snow globe because it was constantly deflating, I watched two strangers berate each other for snowball flinging crimes in the tiny snowball flinging pit–and I filmed my son dancing to contemporary music in a simulated snow flurry and I marveled at how he absolutely did not care if anyone was watching him. That’s a first for him, considering I couldn’t get him to dance with me at the last school Mother/Son dance. Maybe there’s hope for next year’s. His attitude? One to adopt as we head into a nutty time of year.

Hallelujah and happy shopping. Here we go! s16

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Turkey Day Craze

I may as well have woken up in a luxurious spa-hotel, expecting breakfast in bed, or morning tea on an ocean-view patio, sipping from real china in a froofy dressing gown, in any case a stress-free morning despite it being Thanksgiving and I was hosting, so positive was I that everything was prepped. Slide the bird in the oven, good to go, I thought, humming as I tugged on my cave girl boot slippers and pulled a knee-length sweatshirt over my head, having slept in an extra 30 minutes, bectg3aause everything was so marvelously under control, I thought, shuffling cheerily into the living room, greeting relatives and five dogs, my sweet son and my husband, who handed me a steaming mug of creamy coffee. Good morning, I sing-songed, turning on the oven, loving the sunshine, the view from the kitchen window of finches and doves sharing the feeder in the front yard. Let’s get the turkey in the oven! I said, to which my mother replied, Hun, where is your roasting pan? Why, it’s right, I said, bending down to a lower cupboard, reaching, peering, asking my husband for a flashlight, probing, Why it’s right–


I ransacked the office, laundry room, linen closet, backyard shed, the tiny crawl space of attic, my son’s closet, closeted suitcases, the recycling cupboard, the long outdoor chest we keep patio chair cushions in.

No pan.

Ten minutes later I scoured the aisles of the Albertsons a few blocks from us, discovering the last roasting pan with no rack, and the last roasting pan with a rack. I purchased them both and zoomed home, but the 25lb bird didn’t fit in either pan, even when my husband broke the rack and bent it slightly, basically just making everything worse.


My husband assured me I was in no shape to drive, so he zoomed us to Vons. No pans. No racks. We headed East, 5 miles up Tampa, hitting every red light before reaching the posh Ralphs in Porter Ranch, which had a giant aluminum roasting pan, but no racks.


But my husband insisted he could make the rack he’d broken work and with only minutes to spare for turkey-must-be-in-the-oven-time, we made it home. My husband was right: The mutilated rack worked perfectly. I stuffed the bird, draped the breast in cheesecloth soaked in butter and wine and with a final scream shoved it in the oven. Hun, my mom said, You might want to brush out the back of your hair and–take a shower.

I did, four hours later, after locating my chafing dishes, which needed washing, locating and washing the turkey platter, locating the electric knife blatg2ade holder, but not the blades themselves, locating non-electric carving knives I didn’t even know I had, washing those, pulling various dishes from the refrigerator I’d forgotten about (THE MARINATED GRILLED VEGETABLES THE SALMON FLORENTINE THE OVEN BAKED GLUTEN FREE STUFFING), and engaging in a brief, fairly aggressive game of badminton. Right before we were to eat, I quickly showered and shampooed, yanked on a dress, and, barefoot (it was mid-seventies outside), brushed my hair. I ate with a wet head. And a giant glass of chardonnay I raised for the toast, grateful for family, my badminton champion son, my hero husband, this life. Ah…Luxury.

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Dug Out

L0028072 Caricature: Moments when life is worth livingEons ago my wisdom teeth came out far easier than this morning’s Tooth #4, which my dentist described as having a curved root, meaning: curve-ball for what should have been a pretty quick procedure.

‘See?’ my dentist said. He twisted my liberated tooth in the air with tweezers as if displaying both trophy and the Elephant Man. ‘Curved!’  My mouth was stuffed with cotton to stop the bleeding. Why do dentists always ask questions of their patients when speech is impossible? I grunted something, god knows what. ‘Different is good!’ my dentist insisted as I felt saliva, or was it blood, reach my chin. ‘It wasn’t a problem,” he said, as though assuring me. “Just different.’

When I returned home, a pack of frozen peas pressed to my cheek, all I wanted was to watch Sigourney Weaver survive in ‘Alien’. But my 9 year old son was present, so I encouraged him to build Legos on the coffee table while I sprawled on the couch, pickled in Advil, and watched ‘The Durrells in Corfu’. Until, that is, my empathic, animal loving boy objected to the crude leash around the pelican young Gerald Durrell had captured. ‘You’re right,’ I agreed, hastily switching off the TV before my son’s tears could gain momentum. I rubbed his back and had him explain his latest Lego creation, aware of the gap in my mouth, thinking: I get why people want to keep their gall bladders, bottle their tonsils, stick a renegade tooth in a pretty box that lives on a bookshelf. That curved root was a challenge for my dentist AND me (as my fingers ripped the rips in the thighs of my jeans). Was me. A personal, intimate burr. Gone.

It’s okay, Love, it’s okay.

Listen: Metaphor rarely becomes me.

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For The Boids

birdsElection night: 2 friends offended. By me. Thought I was being funny with my online responses. Hah!

Now? Rampant Victors assure me Trump won’t REALLY do all he assured us he will absolutely do if elected. Trump voters in post-election denial. I say: The high school in Penn., for instance. Meanwhile in Ill, for instance. Check out UC Davis, for instance. Hate crimes all, all there to read about. No denial possible.

In times like these–in times like these (!!!)–in times like these I take a moment to gaze at my salt and pepper shakers. Because they provide an alternative to percolating blood pressure–before I, for one, move on to clear and present reality. And deal with it the best I can.

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Island Infusion

006Recently a boat deposited me on Santa Rosa Island for a few days, one of a handful of remote scapes comprising the Channel Islands National Park .

I traveled with a geologist, an art dealer and two canvas artists who brought their cameras to capture inspiration for future plein air works of art. Listening to facts about sediment and ancient orogeny, observations on tone and color as the sunlight and fast-moving clouds changed our surroundings sometimes minute to minute, I felt inspired, educated and fortunate and I missed my husband and son, wanting them to experience the wild ocean, mountains and scampering, indigenous foxes with me. And especially that tent-sleeping part. One day…

0591.  As we hiked through a forest of Torrey pines, explored (or napped on) the windy beach, tackled the climb to Bear Mountain, I often flashed on John Muir, his love for Yosemite that made him famous enough for Teddy Roosevelt to visit him there (even though Muir tried to get out of the meeting–luckily to no avail); because seeing is believing. Because clearly believing can lead to awe and respect, which can lead to a healthy desire to protect the precious and vanishing (the indigenous island fox is now back from extinction’s precipice).

2.  Constantly thankful (as when I discovered half of a gleaming abalone shell on the beach, or watched the sun rise over the silent campground) for writers like Barry Lopez, Eowyn Ivey, John McPhee and so many others graced with a talent for making landscapes live–because when seeing-to-believe isn’t an option, their works make reading-to-believe a reality.

3. So important to pack fresh blueberries and cream when camping–also fajitas and organic corn tortillas, artisanal cheeses and gourmet crackers, and lentil-carnitas stew. And coffee. Of course coffee. And whiskey. I forgot to bring the schnapps, but it wasn’t missed, so I assure you it is actually fine to cross schnapps off your camping list–but never hot chocolate. A beach towel. And, you know, drinking water is pretty vital…


4. Reminded that getting away from regular life is an opportunity for creative inspiration to zap the soul. At the top of Bear Mountain, I found a key ingredient to the novel I’m working on, discovered in the scenery and thanks to the murmurs around me. Aha! I thought. Aha…

5. Reminded that absence makes an already fondness-filled heart swell to bursting with gratitude and love and can be an antidote to writer’s block.

Not meaning to go all didactic on you. Just the urge to share after returning from a wilderness. Maybe trek to Santa Rosa if you can, before they add the proposed hotel and paved roads. Confident the artists I traveled with will help in the struggle to keep the wild in the wild (seeing is believing, seeing is believing), but–oh, Teddy! Paradise needs you, Sir. And definitely Muir, roaring down from the pines to shoo away insensitive change.


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Boo On Drugs

jackoI wrote in a frenzy from 10 a.m. to 1:00p.m., then lay down for a nap before zooming to fetch my 3rd grader from school, but my iPhone was on mute, so I didn’t hear the alarm, but I did hear, fortunately, a buzzing when my son phoned on his Gizmo to politely ask my whereabouts. I swallowed my panic and leapt out of bed telling my son to please stay in the schoolyard and I yanked on a summer dress–because it’s still summer here, in October, in this perpetually heat-swathed, dust-worsening valley of mine–and made my son an apple juice ‘sippy’ and bolted for the minivan. On driving to the school, I suddenly remembered I had signed my son up for after school services run by Coach Sammy, who leads the kids in activities, so I called my son’s gizmo (I press a button on the steering wheel, issue a command and voila–you know all about hands-free phonage in minivans, I know, but I never cease to be thrilled by it and so I point it out ad nauseum because I can’t get over the so very ‘I Robot’, futuristic-but-here-now aspect of it) and told him to take advantage of the after school services. Mom, he asked. Where ARE you? And I swallowed my panic and sing-songed about finding Coach Sammy and pressed the disconnect button on the steering wheel as I sped for the freeway and seconds later my son called me back and said Coach Sammy wouldn’t let him play because he wasn’t signed up for the after school services. So I told my son to go to the office and tell them to tell Coach Sammy that he was indeed signed up and allowed to play and he did this and called me back and now it was all just too much and he was teary. Mom, he choked out. They gave me a contract for you to sign. Fortunately I was pulling up to the school at that point, so I grabbed the apple juice and flew into the yard and quickly wrapped my arms around my son. I just wanted to play, he said, devastated, handing me the same contract I had already filled out and submitted, so I marched us into the office and asked the fearsome duo oh-so-nicely–having already let them know from previous encounters that I am one of the good moms, the reasonable moms, a mom who would, one day, bring them homemade granola to compensate for the fact that they are wounded daily by callous parents, hence their stern caution–I’m saying they will never eat out of anyone’s hand, don’t even try it, not even with homemade granola, just give them the homemade granola and run–I asked the fearsome duo why my son couldn’t play and they had no clue and they (sternly–they’ve been wounded!) suggested I speak with Coach Sammy, to which I replied–calmly, as though I’d downed a Zen pill–GREAT IDEA and off my son and I went, back into the schoolyard and we found Coach Sammy who is sweet and super tall and very athletic and, it turns out, great with kids, and after he shook hands with not just me, but my son, and after Coach Sammy assured my son that in the future he can come and play anytime, we left the school for a math tutoring session and by now my son had perked up, no tears glistened in his blue eyes, and as we walked along Ventura Blvd. to Mathnasium he was all chatty about his day and then a car zoomed by us and some kids in it shouted out their wide open windows (who has wide open windows in 90 degree October heat???): WOO SEXY MAMA and honked their  horn and when I turned to look, aghast, at the car, the driver flipped me the bird. Mom? my son asked. What was that? Were those guys being stupid jerks? And I snapped back into the world and suggested to my son that calling anyone ‘stupid jerks’ is probably not the best we can do, that calling them silly boys is probably better, because maybe they actually donate some of their time to feeding the homeless, maybe their parents recently released the silly boys from a period of intense grounding and the boys forgot their manners because they were so happy to be free on the open road, er, or free on Ventura Blvd., or something like that. I think I said something like that, I don’t even know anymore, I was so shocked that any boys would behave so inappropriately to a mom holding her son’s hand, that any boys would attempt to degrade a mom in front of her kid and of course secretly I thought the silly boys were on drugs. Because WTF. I even HOPED they were on drugs and not actually boneheads in real life–although of course being on drugs and zooming along Ventura Blvd., I would never wish anyone would do such a stupid jerk thing. I tried to remain hopeful. Because I felt rage. Hope is the thing with feathers, as we know, thanks to Emily Dickinson. I ushered my son into the tutoring place and went and sat in the minivan, recovering, unaware I’d slammed a good portion of my blue sundress in the door. What have I learned from this day?

I will never mute my cell phone again.

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Louise Penny

pennynovelWhere has Louise Penny been all my life? I was completely not swept up, but vacuumed into A Great Reckoning and have since been binge reading the Chief Inspector Gamache novels–but I have to say, so far the other books in the series (slightly–very vaguely–just a little bit, really) pale in comparison with Reckoning. I don’t think it’s wrong to read this latest novel before the others–it made me appreciate the others more.

The characters (the cast is large and deftly managed) are whole and funny and remarkably sincere and persistently philosophizing and analyzing their perceptions on human behavior, their own behavior, the nature of humanity, art, religion and murder, they are avid foodies and woods-walkers and everyone is prone to spouting lines of poetry at any moment, even the bad guys. AND there are dogs and ducks and eccentrics and cozy homes surrounding a village green centered by three soaring, significant pines. Make sure you’ve eaten a satisfying meal before reading as the author clearly appreciates good food and drink and with a wicked pen describes mouth-watering dishes. And probably you’ll want to visit Montreal, Quebec City and environs. I’ve googled Canada many times since reading the novels–side-effect from a superbly crafted world. Thank you, Louise Penny. Your novels are treasures.

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Fres-yes? (Wild Kratts Edition)

The Wild Kratts are based in Canada. In addition to their TV shows, which are broadcast all over the world, they occasionally venture over the border–mostly into eastern states and the mid-west–to entertain select child-filled crowds with their live show. The energetic brothers have educated my son on animals and fostered his empathy for wild kritters, even rattlesnakes, since he was 4 years old. My son regularly lectures his parents on facts pertaining to animals we didn’t even know existed on our planet, but do now, like the pangolin, or that desert lizard with spines on its back that act like straws, enabling it to suck up rain drops. Yeah! That lizard. Whatever it’s called.


Imagine my excitement when I discovered the Wild Kratts were bringing their show to California. Fresno, actually, located 3 and 1/2 hours from Los Angeles. A limited number of VIP meet and greet tickets were available. Last April, I whipped out my debit card with screams and snagged 3 VIP tix. Through Travelocity I booked us into a Radisson only .04 miles from the show’s venue. And, finally, after the end of 2nd grade, a summer adventure in Hawaii, the start of 3rd grade, the return of homework schedules and moving up a belt in karate, September arrived. We yanked our son out of school for an overnight and zoomed to downtown Fresno. Or, as my husband refers to that city: Fres-yes? Fres-NO!

k2Between Los Angeles and Fresno the land is pancake. Dirt devils are common and dust hangs in the sky like amber scrim. When we passed the cattle slaughtering plant, I averted my eyes and mentally sent waves of love to the doomed cows. I thought of the TV clips I’ve seen of the Wild Kratts  exploring their wildly pristine, uber-green Canadian environs. As the California countryside around us worsened due to the effects of our lingering drought and we passed abandoned/burnt out barns and crops of weeds, I wondered: Dudes–why Fresno? And, as the temperature climbed: Fres-NO! My husband grumbled. Fres-NO. Are we there yet? asked my son.


Downtown Fresno is in the process of rejuvenating/gentrifying: it’s a wreck. The buildings resemble the historic (beautifully restored) office buildings in downtown Los Angeles, somewhere around Grand and Flower Streets-ish. Tall, cornice-laden structures in desperate need of facelifts and a scrub from an industrial washcloth and environmentally approved perches for the millions of pigeons obscuring the sky.


We navigated one-way streets to the Radisson, situated across the street from a park that should be pretty, but is ringed in chainlink fencing and cement blockades. The driveway for the Radisson parallels its lobby entrance, startlingly brief before dropping into the bowels of the underground parking lot. I squeezed the minivan to the side of the driveway and panicked because I could not find my Travelocity printout with the reservation  confirmation number. I was positive I had packed it in my purse. It IS the Radisson, right? my husband asked. Oh my god, I screamed. Can we go in now? asked my son.

At the front desk, a clerk frowned at his computer and told the clerk next to him to help me and promptly disappeared through mysterious doors and I was so anxious my son have time before the show to swim in the hotel pool (whatever hotel we were booked into) I didn’t complain or take offense, but politely waited my turn instead of causing a scene that might get me thrown out of the joint. When the second clerk finally punched my name into the computer, he came up with: nothing.

I stared at him, oddly screamless, feeling my plans go to Hell. The clerk looked alarmed and said hastily: Let me just check tomorrow’s reservations. And there we were. I had booked us in a day late. You, the clerk told me, need to call Travelocity.


I fell to a lobby armchair and did so, gushing my sad tale to the person on the other end of the line, until, glancing up, I saw the desk clerk waving at me and pointing at his phone. I was talking to him. NOT Travelocity.

I called Travelocity for real this time and the woman put me on hold while she called my desk clerk. I hurried to the front desk and stood before my clerk, listening anxiously as he spoke to the woman with whom I was on hold. She put the clerk on hold, confirmed everything with me, put me on hold and reconfirmed with the clerk, hung up with him, then returned and concluded with me and then it was done. I had our keys, we were IN. I reported back to my husband. It was his turn to stare dumbly.

THIS IS THE BEST ROOM EVER! my son exclaimed. As my husband and I struggled to get the brass cart in the room, our boy whisked back the curtains. OH MY GOD! MOM–DAD–WE HAVE A BEAUTIFUL VIEW!


I love our son. He ran into the room’s bathroom and yelled: MOM, DAD–WE HAVE A SHOWER! AND HERE’S A COFFEE MAKER! Hysterical, I whispered to my husband. He was fingering the duvet with a slight frown.


“No Parking. This area is NOT for the PAWN SHOP.” Fresno!

We made it to the pool.


We hit the Radisson’s restaurant when we were all cleaned up. 40 minutes later we paid the bill having waited that long for my son’s meal,k1a a slice of pizza, which the waitress said she wouldn’t charge us for as the dough was clearly not cooked properly, covered in cold Ragu, 2 slices of pepperoni tossed on top. Raw pizza–because they were out of regular cheese pizza, so they handmade one, which they never do. Fres-WTF, my husband muttered to me. We zoomed to the theatre and I stood at will call with the mob of parents and uber-excited kids, expecting the worst as I couldn’t find the ticket order confirmation number I was sure I had packed in my purse before leaving Los Angeles. Fres-NO, my husband said pleadingly, but a miracle happened, they had our tickets and we dashed inside to buy our son a hot dog to make up for the pizza, but alas the theatre had sold out of hot dogs and workers were desperately making more popcorn for the mob. The lights flashed. We raced to our seats, food-less. My son didn’t seem to notice he was hungry, or that the theatre was stifling and that the Wild Kratts sweated buckets and worked very, very hard that night due to a few technical problems. But the show was solid and my son and every child pktmartinacking that theatre was engaged, screaming answers to animal questions, ‘helping’ the brothers solve mysteries in their interactive presentation. I turned to my husband and said: Fres-yes. And we gazed at the joy emanating from our son. We waited for a while in a stifling hallway to meet the brothers, but my son didn’t care. The brothers were so generous with their time–they engaged with our son, both of them listened to his excited tale about the rattlesnake he saw recently on a hike with his parents. The Kratts must have been exhausted after their show, but they hung in and gave us VIPer’s their all. Best night ever, Mom and Dad! our son told us. So we took him to McDonald’s because that’s all Fresno has to offer after 10pm. It was his first trip there–in all of his 8 years. He enjoyed the action toy, but I was (slightly) regretting brainwashing him about the quality of McD’s chicken nuggets. Please–just eat one nugget, I begged. In the morning, after a huge breakfast, we headed for home.  Throughout the drive our son thanked us for taking him to see his heroes. My husband and I glanced at each other. Fres-m’okay, we agreed, knowing we’d do it all again.

NOTE: The Wild Kratts added shows in Santa Barbara and Costa Mesa after I purchased the Fresno tickets, but those shows didn’t seem to offer meet and greets. So I kept Fresno. If I’m wrong about the meet and greets, don’t tell me and definitely don’t tell my husband. Fres-‘kay?















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Ann Patchett’s COMMONWEALTH (In Percentages)


Early commonwealth individual–or obvious cry for help?

Because Maria Semple stated (in an article I read a few days ago) that she is planning to read Ann Patchett’s new novel, ‘Commonwealth’, I (who had no idea Ann Patchett had a new novel coming out, ‘Bel Canto’ still on my bedside table, ‘State of Wonder’ on my Kindle, albeit ravenously  devoured, if anyone the heck cares) immediately pre-ordered the book (I would be devouring Maria Semple’s–pre-ordered–new novel if it was out yet, let me just be absolutely clear–‘Bernadette’ such a lovely, recurring memory–especially the Alaska section) and as of today and the release of ‘Commonwealth’ I am obsessing on it, struck, once again (since ‘State of Wonder’ and where I left off in ‘Bel Canto’), by the subtle brilliance of AP’s storytelling. I’d refer to AP as a ‘master storyteller’, but AP is beyond that (patriarchal) cliche. She’s–okay, confession: I’m a (matriarchal) soccer (actually karate) mom with a mind noodled from traffic on Victory and Sherman Way, don’t EVER drive in that area 5:45pm-ish, unless your child has just successfully moved to his next martial arts level and is so excited he is hilariously chatty and therefore distracting you from the usual car-wielding lunatics as you employ defensive driving to get you and the precious cargo home.

Ann Patchett’s description of children of divorce growing up with each other in the 70’s (the novel starts earlier than the 70’s, is easily sweeping when it comes to generations) is: rivetingly woven. Ah, well, nice try, PB. Look: I barely had time for my own writing today, which makes me cranky and stubbornly obtuse, unfortunate-stuffs inherited from my not-so-long-ago-deceased father (see previous post).

No one is watching the children. The children grow up learning to govern themselves, ‘Lord of the Flies’-like. They make up their own rules, sometimes–they have to. They survive when they should be dead instead of surviving, sometimes. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten. There’s much more, in the first (Kindle swears it) 31% of the book I’ve completed–but the chapter on the children when they’re all together and just kids in stupid Virginia? Karate Mom says: The author nails it. Maybe I cursed up to the 31% (sometimes audibly, startling those on treadmills near mine at the gym) because the book is a plunger on my past and plungers, though necessary, as you know, can be brutal–unless the plunger brings up the toy your child wedged deep, deep into the toilet. Also, I’d powerwalked about a total of 9.34 miles for that 31% and was a sweaty, exhausted mess, therefore a bit vulnerable to plunger-ridden novels.

I’m going to bed, where I will hopefully read ‘Commonwealth’ to 40% before passing out.

Yours in novels that keep you awake,


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RIP Poem

aearly5Because my father resides in me
I am what others expect to see–
though not as or not ever without
less this or that & always 1 count
behind or is it ahead of much worse:
that 70’s divorce, old split/split purse.

PB Rippey

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Seasonal Conundrums

Researching summer camps for my 8 year old, round about last March/April, I became frustrated:

  1. Sports camp in triple digit heat? No.
  2. Great white shark and hammerhead shark sightings along our southern coast. Surf camp? No.
  3. Science Camp? He loves science! But I want him outdoors, exploring nature. Triple digit heat. Man-eating sharks. Helicopter parent. Sigh.

I vicious-circled all spring, until we left for here. Best 10 day vacation ever.


But we had to come home! And with more than half the summer yet to come, continuous shark sightings along the coast, triple digit heat–the vicious circling continued. I came up with:

  1. Roadtrip to visit friends-with-kids in Santa Rosa: deer at the end of our friends’ sweet street, 1200 yr old redwoods, kids climbing plum and other trees, creatively made organic ice cream in Guerneville.
  2. The drive home: Hwy 1, hiking my beloved Pt. Lobos trails, experiencing a humpback whale sighting as we ocean-gazed from a grove of cypress trees (looking for otters, 3 whales instead, flukes on display).
  3. Zuma Beach (w/mom in the water, too–keeping watch–every second), museums, parks and Pokémon Go. Taking advantage of our teeming metropolis. And Santa Barbara. Why not.

I ached to be the non-taxi mom this summer, the do-the-Kindle-with-breakfast, the let’s-explore!, mom. Accomplished. (I’m tired)

I made time, every day, to write/revise. Which should always be a given, but, you know, sometimes just isn’t because I live in a zoo.

Hoarding these accomplishments as the school year commences. Must remain, at least in part, Adventure Mama, Fun Mama, in addition to the ever-present: Writing/Day-dreaming Mama who sometimes forgets to brush her hair and wears her yoga pants inside-out by mistake.

Ready, set, goal.

chap2Valley Meditation (with Palomino)

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Valley Chapbook


Part of our summer my son and I spent with family in my Ye Olde Hometown. We ate organic foods. Socialized con gusto. And my soon-to-be-3rd-grader attended a local summer camp. His hands were slobbered by the purple tongues of giraffes, he watched vultures eat dead rats, he made animal-related crafts and, most importantly, he met kids for 5 event-filled days.

While my son was at camp, I wrote, beach power-walked, I accompanied one of my sister’s to her uber-exercise class and I survived. sbjuly8I ran a 5k with same sister. And survived. I tasted craft beers in the Funk Zone and wines from Santa Ynez. My older sister and I lounged in Adirondack chairs, catching the late afternoon sun in her California Nature Habitat Approved garden. All so very summer, my favorite season (except for when my portion of heat-socked Valley lunges into the triple digits–something that’s been going on since June–JUNE).

My husband joined us one Saturday. He brought a package addressed to me that had arrived at our house during the week. I thought it was the replacement pestle for our lonely, inherited mortar. And then this happened:


Oops–I mean, this:


Copies of my chapbook were in the package. Finishing Line Press did a beautiful job–they even incorporated all of my last minute edits. Thank you, FLP.

I am organizing a couple of Fall, 2016, readings. One in Los Angeles–it must be a San Fernando Valley venue, as my chapbook’s content is Valley laden, this overheated, tobacco-obsessed, sea of streetlights Valley–and a reading in my hometown of Santa Barbara. And one in my spiritual home of Kauai. Just kidding. About Kauai. For now.


Future posts will include the names of the poets I hope will read with me.

If you would like to order a chapbook, or, as I call it (like the English called theirs way back when), chappie, click on this FLP link. If you pre-ordered a copy (thankyouthankyou), the press assures me it’s on the way. I appreciate your patience.

Yours in chappies and generous blurbs,


In poems of narrative and lyric complexity PB Rippey weaves the daily concerns we all share–love, work, children, family memory and personal history–into moments of quiet epiphany and redemption, into the realization that every moment is grace if we can see it. –Chris Abani, Sanctificum and Hands Washing Water

PB Rippey gazes beyond Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley, collecting its history and hazy views into an elegance to be treasured through its tarnish. These poems are trail maps that lead beyond the Hollywood sign to reveal “California—a spine brown / as the air blurring scarred peaks.” In the Valley, if a lover confesses his belief in past lives as a dolphin, sea turtle, or soldier, she opens “I like it. How can I / not?” That narrow space between mystery and lunacy, “this pocket of breathy Eden,” teases discovery where “although / nothing is unfamiliar, we are shocked / to find it here…” The sprawl is a place of rose gardens and phlox, an urban ocean where Rippey writes, “I can’t take my eyes off the sharks”—a place where the wild circles just beneath the surface.
–Chryss Yost, most recently the author of Mouth and Fruit

This chapbook is a landscape of the earth and the heart, tracing geographical locations alongside intimate confessions. This is a Southern California book, a Valley book, a Los Angeles book, about the intersection between people and places, between light and despair, between now and what lies ahead.
—Millicent Borges Accardi, author of Only More So, Woman on a Shaky Bridge and Injuring Eternity



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O Summer!

I’ve been quiet since May, after a brief, powerful writer’s retreat. I’ve been busy this summer with what the retreat inspired: Writing. Revising. Writing.

Kauai 2016 007

Revising a new short story, one screaming for edits of late. It’s almost ready for submission.


Compiling a list of potential suitors for my novels. I’ll get going on fulfilling that list next week.

Enjoying motherhood and my spouse.

Kauai 2016 034

Avoiding politics—challenging, that. How can that orange haired—ah. See what I mean?

Kauai 2016 212

Reading: To The Bright Edge Of The World, Eowyn Ivey. All The Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister. Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers. Penmarric, Susan Howatch. The Atomic Weight of Love, Elizabeth J. Church, House of Thieves, Kaui Hart Hemmings. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s must-read essay, We Should All Be Feminists. This One is Mine, Maria Semple.

A rich summer of novels, indeed. Eowyn Ivey’s novel has me utterly riveted.

Reads I’m anticipating: Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple. How To Party With An Infant, Kaui Hart Hemmings. Lab Girl, Hope Jahren.

Kauai 2016 197

Only two more weeks left (according to LAUSD) of a restful, exciting, adventuresome summer. Triple digit days are way too common in my Valley—but multiple field trips and get-aways and the ocean have eased the sweat, not to mention a faithful air conditioning system when we’re at home.


I might be hallucinating, but is that a tinge of Fall in the air? No. It’s my son’s Morning Bun from Starbucks.

Kauai 2016 086

Until we meet again, don’t forget to breathe.

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Remember the Bunnies


BunnyOh, that’s long over now. ‘Tis a distant dream. T’was  2 1/4-ish days of nothing-but-revising, surrounded by foliage, sculpture/fountains and wild bunnies with super white tails. Sequestered in a simple room of my own with a nun’s bed, I emerged only for meditative walks and meals with writers and illustrators also thrilled with their sparsely furnished accommodations and nunnery beds– we could have been staying at any Four Seasons, anywhere. Seriously. That’s how overjoyed we were to write for a weekend.

I returned home to find several six-packs of glass beer bottles in the gutter before my walkway ( I had to remove them before I could park in front of my own house on my own sweet, leafy street) and an empty plastic bottle of Cuervo in our hedge. Nice! Rather than litter in front of their own house, the teens across the street dumped everything on our side of the street. Did they think they were hiding the bottles from mom and dad? Did they think they were convincing their parents that the neighbors–responsible parents of an 8 year old boy–had gone on a drinking binge? The mind boggles. Thanks, kids!

I entered the house to find our elderly cat had barfed: on the master bedroom duvet and peed: in a container in my son’s room filled with Lego people, on the kitchen rug and on the doggie bed in the living room. Thanks, cat! I love him, but the more rugs and beds he ruins as senility takes over, the more frequently I utter this: Go to the light, it’s okay, just goooo to the light.

RetreatAs soon as gutters and the cat’s messes were cleaned up, my husband and son and our dogs returned. They’d been away for the weekend, too, visiting family. I thought I had an hour before their arrival, one last blissful moment in time to continue the revision I’d made such progress on, but I was too busy cleaning. My son threw himself at me, declared love and devotion and hunger pangs. My husband thanked me for cleaning. The dogs rejoiced to have everyone together again. I let the writer’s retreat go and enjoyed my family, starting by pulling up photos of the wild bunnies on my iPhone, thrilling my son.


Sacked out–on freshly washed bedding.

Update: the intensity of the write-fest has stayed with me. I’ve been working. Working! Working. Lovely! Here I go again, back to revision. Shhhhhhhhh….


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Chapbook Delay

FLP cover (2)Thank you for pre-orders! The press is running behind schedule, but my chappie will be appearing soon, I believe within the next 6 weeks, per Finishing Line Press. I was hoping for a timely April Poetry Month release, but no worries. A May Pseudo-Poetry-Month release is fine with me.

Yours in poetry and looking forward to reading all your innovative new poetry and fiction machinations,


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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,



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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.


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?





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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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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.


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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,


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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

Gecenin Koynunda, "In the Night's Soul"

Gecenin Koynunda, “In the Night’s Soul”

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