Photos for January Stones and April PAD 2012 property of M J Dills (exception 1/16)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Let me tell you what it's like to be filled with terror.......

What’s it like to be filled with terror? 

Let me tell you… 

Today I watched a great football game (Hawks won over the Vikings in a real beating), then I went to a meeting at a library. A normal Sunday. 

I was glad to find a parking spot close to the building and managed to arrive a few minutes early. This was being a good day and the sun was kind of shining. I was standing inside the library, about to approach my favorite weather personality, who was walking in the front door on his way to set up the meeting I was about to attend, when I noticed a lot of flashing lights and started to peek outside to see what was going on. 

The sounds of what were later described as serious heavy caliber gunfire sent me in the other direction a lot faster than I have recently expected my body to be able to maneuver. I’m sixty-six; I don’t move fast for much of anything unless it involves a serious senior discount and a popping cork. 

Along with dozens of patrons of the library, I ran like hell. 

People were shouting The bathrooms, The bathrooms

I suddenly found myself surrounded by kids, mainly four boys ranging in age from about 15 down to 5. In our group, there was also a man, who I thought accompanied the boys but later realized was on his own; and a younger Asian lady and her elementary-age daughter. The oldest boy in our group was obvious autistic and I wondered where his chaperon/parent was, but it didn’t really matter. He was terrified and he wasn’t the only one. 

The youngest two boys, Joshua and his five year old brother, were sort of aware that something was going on. The other boy was around 9 or 10 and he knew it was gunfire and wasn’t shy about saying so. Repeatedly.

Many years ago, when my two granddaughters were around two years old, I made up a story to keep them from freaking out whenever fire engines passed us, about kittens being rescued by firemen and how they had to get to this kitty quickly... so they put their sirens on and drive fast. Today I found myself relying on those kittens, and added dogs and other animals to the narrative. Anything to distract from the fuselage outside on the streets that stopped and then, mercilessly, moments later started again.

While I was using kitten stories and other nonsense to calm myself and hence, the children around me, I also found my mind wondering what would happen next. For what seemed like a long time, we sat in this modern day foxhole, which we found out was, appropriately, the office of the children’s librarian and we had no idea what was happening outside. Not a clue.

The mention of a Jewish Temple located across the street passed in one of my ears and didn’t stick at all, cruising out the other side. Though today was the first day of Hanukkah…that just didn’t make sense. No one is at war with Jews, at least not in Seattle or any other part of the US. Not today anyway. Is religion the first thing that comes to mind? Yes. How sad is that in this time of joy and peace and love and light? Terror is on everyone's mind. 

In an instant at the beginning I hoped if this was some kind of attack I wanted to die quickly and not be horribly maimed. I wondered what it would be like to be hit by a bullet. If it would hurt and if I died, would see my mom and dad. The image of dully painted cinder blocks above my head will linger for some time. If the walls would cave in; if we would be blown up without noticing the destruction. If it would hurt. Please spare the children, I thought. And in the next fleeting fraction of a second... how would they recover from something like this anyway? Above all, I wondered how my grandchildren would deal with something happening to me? 

Those of us gathered, squatting and huddled, had no idea what the gunfire was about but I know that I, among others, didn’t have any supposition either, how safe we were. The autistic boy stood with his hands clasped over his head, a stance that was unnerving and I yearned to engage him in the coloring we were doing on the floor. I tried to color with the kids but gave that up. There was no way my shaky hand would stay inside the lines. 

When it was all over and we found out it was ONE guy and a LOT of cops, I felt foolish, in a way. And I had a meeting to go to. I also knew what I had felt was terror. I'd not known what was going on (twenty minutes sequestered and uninformed is a long time) other than a couple people coming into the doorway to tell us we had to stay where we were. Gunfire. Is. Terrifying. You are helpless. (And, no, it wouldn't have helped to have my own gun. Who the hell was I going to shoot at?)

I suspect I have a little bit of PTSD. What the hell do people do when they REALLY get shot? Or their friend/co-worker next to them gets shot? Or everyone around them gets shot? Or they hide in a cupboard or a closet or a bathroom until someone comes and pulls them back to reality. Not back to safety, because that’s gone. Safety is gone when you go through terror, regardless of the level, the magnitude. This shit is real, people.

 For now my safety is gone. 

 Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Prayers and Borders

Prayers and Borders

Borders and prayers we can do without.

Pray? To whom? For what?

A hurricane hit the coast of Mexico and spared Puerto Vallarta because people prayed? Methinks the people in the mountains, the small villages who were entirely wiped out or severely damaged, prayed fervently and feverishly. I suspect their knees were more solidly affixed in front of altars than those of the tourist town, busily boarding up windows and gathering sandbags, where the storm passed over the target.

How many prayers have been said to bring back the 43? How many parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, in Iguala and all around the world, have prayed for a return… or even an answer?

You think there haven’t been prayers to bring the boats ashore from Syria where dead babies wash up on beaches? Prayers for buried miners, lost hikers, boats vanished at sea, newborns in NICU bassinets, Beirut, Israel, Russia, Mumbai, the US, polar bears, orangutans, baby seals, confined whales? Make your own list.

In Paris, bullets killed dozens while prayers of all kinds were cried out. All kinds of prayers. Loud prayers. Silent prayers. Many, many prayers. Prayers for God; prayers for Allah.

Fran├žois Hollande ordered borders closed.

Isn’t it a little late for that?

What we need to do is abolish borders. All borders. All kinds of borders.

Fences maybe, because fences make good neighbors, but fences with gates, fences one can leap over with heart in hand. Welcome mats. Bells at the door and flowers on the table. Fences to keep rabbits out, saving carrots and young spring lettuce.

But no…
No Borders.
We can do without prayers and borders.

These are only words (as are prayers) and will be read by few, but spread the feeling of no borders, if you will, of hearts in hands, without prayers.

Thank you for reading.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Vertigo - Not Just a Scary Movie

The Epley Maneuver

Miraculous is not a word that gets overused in my personal vocabulary.

I had vertigo for a long time, off and on and sometimes debilitating. A couple years ago, I had a fierce episode that lasted eight months. The Adele song “Rolling in the Deep” was my theme every morning when I woke, turned over and traveled from bed to bathroom, a mere few steps. I started each day with an initial wave of nausea that eventually calmed down but never quite disappeared. 

More than once, I slid into friends on both level and uneven terrain, was obliged to apologize and straightened my pace but I almost succeeded in knocking some of them off their own feet. People who’ve never had vertigo have no idea what an unbalanced plane the victim suffers; how equilibrium swings around like an out-of-control pendulum; what getting out of bed or rising from a seated position entails.

I’m not sure if all vertigos can be cured as mine was, but I know there are a lot of people who have never even heard of the Epley Maneuver and neither have their doctors. I was lucky that my physician, Dr. Vanessa Feliciano, on the staff of UW Medicine, sent me to the UW Medical Center Physical Therapy. She was convinced I could be helped, even though I was sure it was hopeless.

When I arrived, I was confronted by a waiting room full of people who were clearly disabled with canes, walkers, wheelchairs. I thought perhaps there was something wrong with my neck and/or spine, so maybe I was in the right place. I met with a physical therapist, Emmanuel Craig. As we chatted, we discovered we had friends in common and I relaxed and allowed him to manipulate my head and neck. I've never been comfortable having people fiddle with my neck.

When Emmanuel told me it was clear I was suffering from vertigo, I told him I knew that! but then he explained BPPV to me (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). BPPV is the [sudden sensation that you’re spinning or that the inside of your head is spinning.] I had a severe case. Surprise, surprise. What he told me next promised to change my life. It could be cured, simply and within moments.

I walked out of the UWMC PT, clearheaded and balanced. I was also astounded. That this treatment could be so uncomplicated, involve no drugs and leave absolutely no after effects, amazed me. I tried to share the information with others who I knew suffered from vertigo but was met with disbelief (I could relate) and skepticism. I told them to ask their doctor and make an appointment with a physical therapist.

I am well now. I know how to resolve my vertigo if it returns, and it may. I no longer need to fear falling and running into people, furniture, small children, etc. I don’t have to cling to walls. I get out of bed in the morning and sit up normally, ready for my cup of coffee, not afraid I will vomit it up.

If you have vertigo and you want to try curing yourself, you can follow the instructions in this video, which is what I will do, if mine returns. Have someone with you to help guide you along. It won’t hurt, isn’t complicated and can change your life. Good luck.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Postcard Poetry Fest 2015

Here are the saved poems from the Postcard Poetry Fest I participated in the month of August. There are, undoubtedly, common threads running through these days and reflect what was going on in my life and surroundings.
The goal of the PoPoFest is to write and send one postcard a day during the month; and the focus is to write about what is going on in one’s life or a reflection of the postcard or any damn thing you want to write. It’s a fun exercise and those of us who participated this year (over 400) have Paul Nelson to thank for his efforts and support. I’ve included some photos of postcards I sent, since the large collage is the ones I received.
(Unfortunately, two of my postcards got sent without my having saved them. Next year I won’t rely on modern technology and will copy each one.)

I thought of you
Or people like you
For days on end
When the wisps of smoke
Burned our eyes just a little
Or made our throats scratchy
I prayed for you though I don’t trust prayers, people who pray
If so, we brought further disasters of different kinds.
I saw the evidence today
I hope you’re safe and suffered no loss
I prayed for you though I don’t believe in prayer or take stock in those who pray.

We never really understood what it was like to be cold
To understand terms like bone chilling or teeth chattering
The shock was like electric
Like a big slap in the face
And yet we survived and begged to do it all over again.
Glaciers in the middle of summer.
Thrill seeking insanity.

The ocean of my past visits my dreams
Bringing characters I’ve known,
loved and hated.
Ghosts who caress and soothe,
jab and jabber,
poke and plunder.
I wake most mornings hanging onto images that sometimes haunt me throughout the day.
Until night when a new wave washes in.
Sent to Arthur Tulee

I took you everywhere on my bicycle.
Sometimes Mary Lou would come with us on her horse.
Mom said “you have a baby now” and I know she thought you might convince me
to have none of my own. It was a chance she was willing to take.
She never regretted anything.
Sent to Ashley Sage

I don’t want to be Lucia Berlin,
Buried in the back shelf of literary history,
Late in life success and little renown
And yet
I would give anything to be Lucia Berlin
Even if buried in the back shelf
Discovered as some old dottering typist
Pounding away.
Sent to Chrissy Burd

I wonder if my grandma sent us back to our mother with disguised relief.
We were forced to be indoor and outdoor visitors.
Sit up to the table bus our dishes use napkins and welcome mats.
I, too, enforce the rules with my little guests.
Giving in to electronics, at times…
I miss them when they go but
I kiss them goodbye with a limp
but sincere sigh of relief.
Sent to Margaret Santhanam

I don’t want to fight
Have no talent for it
Never practice and best at walking. Away.
I only want to embrace you
Tell you how much you are loved
And ask if you remember any of the good stuff
I don’t want to fight.
Sent to Libby Maxey

This isn’t my lifetime
I’m just learning now
I have some other lessons to learn before I’m done here
I want to move on but I don’t think I’ll be able to.
I’ll have to come back and do some things over again.
I wanted to be a cheerleader in high school
Now I realize how unimportant that was
And glad it never happened.
Sent to Judy Kleinburg

I grew up with skin privilege
I knew it because my father knew it and he told me so.
“You’re lucky you’re white.”
He told me to never look down on another human being because of their difference.
Short, fat, skinny,
Woman who wants to be a man,
Man who wants to be a woman.
We’re all equal.
Same color blood.
He said.
Sent to Judy Mayhew

Today I thought about our words exchanged yesterday.
is all they are.
There is no feeling, emotion, warmth
When two people tap letters into a phone
And send it across a distance.
I left a phone message but you claimed you didn’t get it.
I can’t prove that since it’s not “saved.”
I wish you’d talk to me.
Love, Mom
Sent to Theresa Pappas

The fires are eating us
Coming slowly like a death march
over hill
over mountain
over tree and stream.
My daddy said it was the fire that would take us.
Landslides and mountains tumbling down and then
He was always right about these things.
If he’s watching he’ll be nodding and grieving for the trees.
Sent to Marge Merrill

The last time we were together
We all smiled
Looked into the camera and pretended things weren’t prickly
We spoke with friends and family and fooled them all.
“What a nice relationship you have with your brothers,” it was said.
Like drinking vinegar, gulps and snorts.
We weren’t brought up to lie but
we’re very good at it.
Sent to Lynne Shapiro

She was my sister.
From different mothers.
And fathers.
They say “soul sisters.”
I never had one…a sister.
I was surrounded by brothers.
And hand-me-down overalls and t-shirts.
Cap guns and under-the-bed farts.
I wanted a sister and when I finally got one,
She flew.
Sent to Linda Crosfield

Today was a stormy, sunny, mad-cap day!
It was the kind of day to wear your grandmother hat and bake in the kitchen
Cakes from scratch and scones
And flip blueberry pancakes and
Fill the hummingbird feeders
It all got hot and sticky and humid
And we tore our clothes off with Wild Abandon
And JUMPED in the lake! J

I stepped outside to see if I could see
The meteor shower,
So dark but no stars in the sky.
A jet came from the north.
A big one.
The big ones come in slow and low.
They take their time floating down through space.
They come from where one can see the stars.
Up close but far away.

My friend died yesterday.
She “took her own life.”
What an odd expression.
To take a life.
Like stealing.
A grand theft robbery.
And that expression too:
“Stealing away in the night.”
I suppose it was somewhat criminal what she did.
She’s gone.
She’s left us empty handed.
We feel “taken” as in “fooled.”
She fooled us into thinking everything was okay.
Just fine.
Okey dokey.
We were robbed.

“Let a smile be your umbrella,” he said.
“I can fix it so,
make it a better day for you. Be it
Storm or sunny weather.”
I knew it would be okay
As things always end up being.
But a broken umbrella is such an annoyance
And I could not
For the moment,
See beyond the snags and shatters.
Sent to Kellyanne Pearce

Where will you be at Christmastime?
My family wants me with them
And I love my family
But oh… the unhappiness -

I was once “Mother Christmas,” and
You never saw a home so decorated, inside and out.

With every day the baking and all the heavenly preparation.
But our angels flew away one day and now I go to palm trees and beaches
And Christmas is for giving to the needy, not the ungrateful.
Sent to Rosanne Braslow

Our girl.
She flew.
Like an angel, she went her way.
I held her, didn’t want to ever let her go.
Her stinky little breath, the last ones and then
No more pain.
The struggle to keep on keeping on.
That’s down now.
How quick a little life can go and all the joy over.
Oh, we loved her so.
Azula (Zuzu) Rome Oct 22, 2001 – Aug 3, 2015
Sent to Sue Anne Brannan Walker

What if you knew her?
What if she sailed away and you didn’t get your chance to say “goodbye,
My friend, my sister, my girl, my lovely girl?”
What then?
And you followed the waves, the hand waves and the ocean waves
But there was never a port.
What then?
Sent to Susan Watson

I wanted to tell you about the silly women in high heels
And how they tottered
(Yes, they tottered!)
On the uneven streets and I wondered
“Who will catch them if they fall?”
But they are the steady ones
Those women
They are the ones who will lead the way.
Sent to Anthony Kolasny

I want to share this with you.
This time from far away and long ago.
How brilliant to remember
To remember the little things
The feel of my shoulder leaning into yours
The song we heard that morning at breakfast after we made the bed
Peering at each other over a continent of sheets and pillows.
Sent to Kristin Williams

My uncle’s name was Roy.
My father’s brother.
They were born in 1903 and 1905,
and moved from Missouri
when they were little boys
to live with their grandmother in Montana.
They moved from the West to the Way-Out-West.
They were Indians and cowboys, my father and his brother.
They were American originals.
They were real pioneers.
Sent to Gillian Standley

Did you ever think what does it mean to be of the “working class?”
How does a “working class” exist if there is no work?
Find a piece of cardboard, write your own legend and
Stake yourself out by the freeway,
Never expecting a ride;
Just a little bit of class.
Sent to Terry Holzman

I’m going to Mt Everest tonight
In my book
I’ve been to Africa, Nepal,
Slogged through the mud in Tibet.
I have feared for my life and saved that of others.
I’ve died in childbirth and fought in wars.
All from my pillow.
For the love of books.
Sent to Amanda Adams

My daddy was raised in Montana.
Said he raised some hell there.
Was afraid of snakes his whole life
And things that moved across the earth without feet.
That would include fire, which scared him more than rattlers.
He was familiar with the tongues of deepest fears
And managed to practice humility while considering
Profound courage.
Sent to Carole Slesnick
Did you hear my song?
It was a book I wrote
I poured out my heart
Like red wine from a broken bottle
About all the loves I lost
First with My Boy
The only one who tore me up and down my middle
All the way to the last one who flew away………..
Sent to Paul Nelson

It’s another Saturday
It was just Saturday so recently
So how can it again be Saturday?
How can all these hairs on my head be gray?
How can my chin droop in this way?
I blame it all on all these Saturdays.
Sent to Bev Fesharaki

It came. It came upon that morning
And you can remember her
Blowing kisses at you
As she stood high above the sea
You, on the wooden planked dock
The scent of creosote so strong you could have
eaten it for breakfast.
It came and it brought her to you.
Send to Nicholas Kolasny

Thank you for reading.....


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tonight I Think About Tomorrow

Tonight I think about tomorrow. 
Fourteen years ago.

We went to bed innocent and woke up completely startled. 
Furniture and dogs were kicked. 
Implacable disbelief. 
Merciless reality. 

Overturned lives, loves, plans, convictions.

Our world changed. 
We began to think and feel as others have for centuries. 

In fourteen years I have heard about conspiracy, lack of evidence, missing recordings and documents.

One thing remains. Loss. We are stuck with that.

Loss of freedom, confidence, loved ones, futures.

What have we learned?

Little to nothing.

The fighters continue to fight in the wrong arenas. The radicals continue to terrorize and strike where the desert is no longer about camels or oil or negotiations. 
The vital organs cling to reason, wisdom, compassion, with heads in the clouds 
and argue about camels, 

Tonight I think about tomorrow. 
Fourteen years ago.

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Swing Your Lantern High

Our children need us. But we need them, too. I needed mine, God knows. They kept me stable, going from day to day, year after year, when things around me sometimes felt like more than an earthquake. I know what Biden is talking about here, climbing into bed with them and holding your hand on their little tummies, the up and down, in and out, knowing that one thing is consistent, their sweet breath, their complete innocence, their dependence on you. Bless you, Joe; my heart weeps for you. I won't ever forget hearing my grandmother telling a friend on the day she buried her youngest son "We aren't meant to bury our children."
As Vice President Joe Biden's son was dying of brain cancer this spring, he delivered a speech at Yale that addressed to his own losses and talked about how important his bond with his children was to him. . . Click on the above for Vice President Biden's full speech. . . Thank you for reading.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Zero for the Mother

I weep for the marbled murrelet,
mollusks, brown pelican, the cutthroat trout,
and southern sea otter, least tern, red throated loon…
an infinite list of
Innocent, defenseless life that swallows elixir of death
and then is
… gone.

We insist on constant exploitation of endangered habitat
With no concern for our stewardship
Oblivious to 
Extinction by numbers, perishing in bleakness, desperation;
For nothing but lack of concern,
gluttony for money.

From the ether come the screams of John Muir, Rachel Carson, Farley Mowat,
When a tube buried deep within the earth
Its contents slithering like a slick venomous serpent and
allowed for Mankind to be engaged, once again, in the decimation
Ten by ten,
Thousand by thousand.

Score for casualty, score for excess, score for greed, score for ignorance, score for suffering, score for death, score for oil, score for tragedy.

Zero for the mother.


Thanks for reading.


Endangered and Threatened Marine Species


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Far From the Madding Crowd – The Movie

I’m not sure I’ve done a movie review on my blog but the images of this film are firmly lodged and this keeps me from doing real work….

Hardy took his title, Far From the Madding Crowd from the 1871 Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, a lengthy poem in which Gray lifted phrases from Dante and Petrarch; lots of thieving going on here.

The place, far from the madding crowd, in Gray’s poem, is a graveyard. Reading the piece, one can almost imagine Gray having gone forward in time and looking back to write about regret, peace, retribution, forgiveness, love, envy.

Each one of Hardy’s Crowd characters can be found in this poem on one line or another. Gray’s poetry depicts sheep grazing over rolling hills as the sun lowers on the horizon; woods and farm animals taking to roost or burrow for the night; images of a happy family household; the small hamlet; the wealthy kingdom; earls and land gentry; rich and poor.

Tribute of a sigh is another line in the Gray poem that Hardy could just as easily taken to describe his romantic and tender novel.

In the outer hallway of the massive theater where we had escaped to watch our movie, ticketholders pressed against one another in anticipation of another movie, Mad Max in 3D, a movie full of special effects, raw language, terror, violence and bloodshed. Our screen held the attention of a mere forty or fifty moviegoers, comfortably seated and ready for a different type of action.

There's little bloodshed in Far From the Madding Crowd but there are soldiers and there is much death, tragic in all cases. There’s no sex but there is so much lust packed into about 4 minutes of the entire film that I turned to my friend, shaking my head and, feeling woe for all womanhood, whispered “fucking hormones” in her ear.

Thomas Hardy, father of the cliffhanger (in his novel A Pair of Blue Eyes, written in 1893, Hardy chose to leave a main character literally hanging from a cliff staring into the flinty eyes of a marine fossil embedded in rock that has been dead for millions of years), knew how to create suspense and just a little bit of terror. There was always enough to keep his readers on the edge of their seats and coming back for more. During a time when women wore cuffs to their knuckles and collars up to the chin, Hardy was able to portray sex scenes that deliberately left Victorian housewives and maidens trembling. You just won’t get that in Mad Max.

Carey Mulligan’s Bathsheba Everdene reveals a handsome, stubborn, intelligent and independent woman, unable and unwilling to respond to the advances of two eligible men. She makes the worst decision of her life when she solves her problem by marrying a third and most aggressive bachelor. 

Matthias Schoenaerts, (a must-see in Rust and Bone) is outstanding as the Farmer Oak, who inevitably and deservedly will win the heart of Bathsheba. The supporting cast, especially Tom Sturridge as the sexy, bad-boy Frank Troy, are all worthy of statues. The cinematography stands alone, chilling and warming, all in stride. 

Skip Mad Max and have yourself a treat with developed characters and no special effects (unless you count Sturridge's ruby-red puckering lower lip.)
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May 3rd

This morning a writer friend sent a YouTube video via private message. It’s A Beautiful Day’s "White Bird." Not sure why James sent it, but no matter… it was a lovely gesture. "White Bird" has significance for me though I've not thought about the song in years. 
Today my mom would have been 94. The gorgeous woman with the camera here. The wind is blowing her skirt; it’s not a thread holding it in place, like a magazine shot. A gust just came along to make this photo perfect. She’s looking into the lens of a box camera and must have been heavily concentrating; one had to hold them very still to get a decent picture. A car is parked on the street behind her and I believe this is taken in Enumclaw. I wonder who is taking the photo of her but I can guess. 
I miss my mom. She was hard on me, most of my life, but she loved me dearly and I know that. It wasn't always easy being her daughter. She was demanding of everyone around her. She expected a lot. My mom had special disdain for people who slept well. She could not bear to let us kids sleep in and when we were adults, she deliberately made phone calls very early in the morning. The devil got his due when she was elderly and would miss the final moments of television shows and movies, nodding off.
My mother put me on rigid diets from the ages of about 12 – 15, until I rebelled. I was never fat but I was not sleek and thin like other women in my family. It bothered her immensely. And then I became a hippie. It nearly killed her but was nothing compared to what I did later, getting pregnant out of wedlock. Shame for the family. Twice. 
Mom and I became friends after my father died; he had always been my great defender and perhaps she felt the job fell into her camp. She read just about every word I wrote. She praised my writing and was proud. When she was dying, she asked me to print out some of my poetry and she would sit and read it, her head wrapped in a silly turban to hide the hair loss. I have a strong image of that. 
My mother shared her birthday with her sister, who was born on May 1st, five years later. They’re together now, having died two years apart. When I was young, our families got together for every occasion and made a very big deal of anniversaries, graduations, confirmations and such. There were a lot of photos taken; lots of shutterbugs in the family.

Many years ago I was living in Los Angeles and pregnant with my little girl. I had a close friend at the time and she was quite hip. Tanya’s mom owned a "poodle parlor" in San Diego and Tanya went by the last name of Lord, though that wasn't her real name. She moved in with me and we were soul sisters, doting on my baby boy and waiting for my next baby to be born. Tanya and I bonded in a way I never really have with another woman. Most people thought we were lesbians and we were not, but we never denied it. 
Tanya was a Taurus like my mom, and there were odd similarities I couldn't help realizing. it was a strange type of perfectionism they shared. Once Tanya took me to a party high in the hills of Hollywood. There were candles and flowers floating in the pool and famous people there but I'd been out of touch, having babies, so she explained to me who they all were. Tanya was very in tune with current culture and I've never forgotten when she brought albums home. It’s a Beautiful Day was one of her favorite groups. We listened to "White Bird," mesmerized by the melody and the lyrics. We spun that LP over and over until the grooves were deep as our thoughts and desires.
So this morning when James sent me the video, just as I was waking up and thinking about Mom’s birthday, clouds of images took over. 
I lost touch with Tanya long ago. I've no idea where she ended up. Mom's been gone for five years this July. My hair's turning gray and my children are different people from those to whom I gave birth. 

"The sunsets come; The sunsets go; The clouds roll by; And the earth turns old; And the young bird's eyes Do always glow…."

Happy Birthday, Mom and you, too, Tanya, wherever you both are.

Thanks for reading.



Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine’s Day – The Mouth of My Monster

February 14th is different for me. Years ago, I was married on this day. Two months prior, I nearly bled to death. As life drained out of me and my skin color blended with the white sheets in the emergency room (you can’t believe it unless you've seen it), I received a proposal of marriage. It was meant to give me the will to live. It wasn't necessary. I was in good medical hands and had no desire to go anywhere. My life was my three kids and my desire for them to have a typical family. The five of us were coming to that but we had put off making a legal commitment. Three kids as part of my bargain didn't seem to represent a fair prospect for him.


They normally don’t allow people in the ER beyond the waiting room but he just walked in after locating me in the warren of swinging doors and bright lights. That was the kind of man he was. No was not in his acceptable inventory of responses.  Nobody stopped him. I saw his face among those who were tending to me; I accepted him to have found me. He later said he counted 17 people in that room, not including the two of us. I remember, even now, racing to the OR watching the ceiling tiles whiz by overhead, some pieces missing with wires and pipes exposed, like in a movie. I woke hours later in the ICU and watched flakes of snow whirling outside the foggy window. A nurse told me he’d just left; it was 5 a.m. and I should let him get some sleep. She phoned him and he was standing next to me the next time I opened my eyes. The weather was torturous. It was 12 degrees and he’d gone home and checked the wrapped pipes, turned around and came back. He brought my hairbrush. He was that kind of man.


Over the years, we had a grand party every Valentine’s Day. We invited everyone we knew and they all came. A bartender was hired; glasses were rented; food was cooked for days. It was a festive gala, a chance for people to dress up and make merry in what was usually the dullest, grayest time of year. Photos have been lost; tossed out, I suspect, by a bitter child. But that’s another story.

Malcolm Gladwell writes in The Tipping Point about the process of memory in his chapter about The Power of Content.  [Transactive memory is part of what intimacy means and when a unit is broken up, as it is in divorce, depression develops due to the] loss of [] external memory systems. 
And so… my recollection is only half of what it should be. I could make a pie chart of where collections of memorable events exist. I've lost much; I've way too many living ghosts.


I hate hospitals. The weeks and months of smelling those odors, hearing those sounds. I became far too familiar with routines, schedules and movements. I was often mistaken for a doctor or nurse, even without a uniform. 
We came to refer to it as the drive-by germ. It hit our house in late January, just as we were planning the next Valentine party.   
I slept in his ICU room for nearly a month. They moved him to a standard room and I had to sleep in a chair. I couldn't leave. He lost his ears, his toes, half his fingers. He was on breathing machines at 100% for too damn long. He lost his mind, his memory, the things we shared together, the things we cherished, the moments, the harmony, the sweet accord that made us whole.


I thought I’d gotten over him. Last year a phone call came in the night and we rushed to that place I hate…the hospital. It was eleven years since I'd seen him. You get over a person in that amount of time, right? Especially if that person is not even recognizable as whom he was to you, when he was a complete, sane person?

I honestly didn't think he’d make it through the night. There was blood everywhere, a huge gash in his forehead, broken bones on both sides on his body, his back. Intubated; those familiar tubes trailing from his nose and mouth, the pumping of air into lungs that resist each thrust. He’d been hit by a pizza delivery car; stepped off a curb in his usual oblivion and BAM! Here we were again.  


“He has nine lives,” we joked. It was funny. Sort of. He’s escaped death more than anyone I know, twice as a child in horrible accidents. I visited him three times again after that, twice in the ICU, where they had him stabilized; then again in a regular room when he was awake and aware. He didn't cling to my hand like he had when he didn't really realize who I was. He dismissed us all with the wave of his deformed, damaged hands.  I closed the door.


Christmas is difficult. We had such a multitude of traditions and so much fun; it’s never been the same. I've chosen to be in Mexico for the holidays, where the culture captures me and I don’t dwell on how our typical family completely fell apart, shattered in so many pieces, no pot of glue could put it together again.

Valentine’s Day, however, follows me wherever I go. Those many years ago, my first one without him... friends, who took pity, invited me to dinner. A mistake. After they talked about him through the entire meal, I excused myself to go back to the hospital, sit next to him and listen to the wheezes and beeps, the monitors and machines that were keeping him alive. I woke at dawn, drove home and fell back to sleep curled in a ball. Those things I remember.

When he came out of the coma, woke and spoke, he recognized no one and thought I was someone named Sheila. Slowly he began to come back to us but he never really reached that point where we knew him. His transactive memory was gone. It was the death of our intimacy.


My life has gone on. I've had magic and wondrous times. I've even had love again, which was something I doubted would ever revisit me in this mortal existence. I've been lucky and there are few regrets. Valentine’s Day though… it’s a burden I shoulder.

Thanks for reading. 

Heart in Her Hand painting of me by Michael Hale 

(At the time of his illness, a vaccination was being developed for meningitis, which is highly recommended for teenagers, who are more susceptible than younger children. Too late for Breeze, who lost his spleen as a young boy in one of the aforementioned accidents. Had it been only a couple years later, he would have been eligible and chances are we would still be making memories.)