Clouds and Solteras

OK, I admit to an experiment of sorts.  I’ve stashed myself at the foot of a spectacular cloud forest in Costa Rica.  I’m alone and even the birds are a bit shocked at my rather meager collection of Spanish phrases,  but hey, that is what experiments are designed to be: meanderings into the unknown.

While other expats spend way too much money sitting at perfect sites along the beach, drinking inordinate volumes of umbrella drinks, I count the toucans and ask them to keep on soaring.  I’ve walked this walk before:  solitary (soltera, single babe) on other jaunts worldwide.  Some might be way too quick to view me as some wizened old bitty with wiry hair and smelly old thrift store clothes.  I have to confess:  I brought the whole enchilada:  just in case I was invited to meet el presidente or you know the drill, a night out among them.

A night out among them at this stage of the gig is a bit tremulous.  I live up a long muddy cobblestone road, and then down another equally precarious jaunt down a dark path.  No thank you.  I’ll hang with my toucans.  Oh and I adore my mosquito net which I hauled in my suitcase.  Twenty bucks at Amazon and worth every penny! I recline while mosquitos wait eagerly outside to pounce.  I picture myself as Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa”….waiting for Robert Redford.  He hasn’t arrived yet but one can light the lamp and hope.

Writing retreats are cool.  They engender comradery and so many thought provoking inlets while writing buddies wax poetic.  The solitary route bespeaks of monks and monkettes and talking to God.  Hell, I’ll talk to the wee hummingbirds that buzz my laptop daily.  Napping when I wish, rising in the middle of the night to write, wandering along the path next to the thundering river?  all mine and no I don’t spend multiple hours sharing on Facebook.  It’s my walk for now.  When I need to engage with another human, I’ll put on my happy coat and meander beyond the gate.  My Spanish is somewhere between horrible and hey she’s improving.  Expats are few and far between.  It’s kind of a difficult choice I’ve made, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A gecko just crossed the doorstep.  He is always watching me from the ceiling and then meanders down to stare at what I am writing.  I wish I could do that ceiling maneuver but as a homo sapiens, it just isn’t our gig.  So I”m here.  Sometimes I listen to the beating of my own heart.  Sometimes I remember God knows what of my rather unique life.  Memoir? maybe but I’m actually not that self-absorbed.  I’ll stand at a distance and write someone’s story but with another name attached.  For now, this is more than enough,  yes, enough is a tremulous word,  MORE THAN enough suits me just fine.  And Mr. Redford, if your GPS has misdirected you to another cloud forest, so be it.

 

Freedom Earned

It was now clear that the door was swinging open widely:  “Catch me if you can” was the prime directive.  Suddenly life had become more alive. Nothing surrounded me except my own personal joie de viv. The need to behave, conform and worst of all fit in were now shed like last summer’s stretched out bathing suit.

The sheer guts it took to keep walking, in fact, skipping forward was now a game of spiritual aerobics.  All the happy camper things I had learned so long ago, that had been shelved for enforced behavior mod and believing in the corporate song and dance were now awakening again.

Life would certainly be intriguing. If nothing else, I’d do what I’d always wanted to do:  live off shore in a cool place (to be defined) and WRITE!  Wheels up!

 

 

He is Risen

Today is Easter for the Christians, Passover for the Jews, and the bridge makers of it all sometimes sigh:  What exactly does He is Risen truly mean?  Last night, I watched “Jesus Christ Superstar” again.  I’ve watched it ritually for close to forty years.  Ted Neeley is still playing the part of Jesus in his seventies, and, worldwide.  Where does he get his vitamins to move onward every year?  He imbues the kindness of Jesus as well as his human frustration as he plays that powerful role.  “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” takes on a deeper meaning.  Last night, I put on the captions and actually sang along. Why not?  But as I studied those captions, I realized dialog I had missed even with my repetitive viewing on Good Friday or Holy Saturday.   It became clear that often the lyrics were subtle Sometimes they were evocative:  “Jesus is cool”  voiced by the high Sanhedrin priest.

And then the dialogs of Jesus and Judas.  Clearly the love between the two of them was there as well as the agony.    Tim Rice, the lyricist, is my hero.  He brought the story to life, not just another repetition of something written so long ago.  It is timeless.

Well, here is where I’m going with this blog:  What if  He is Risen was reflected in all our thinking?  What if Redemption, ah the elusive word, was ACTIVE NOW.  Redeem? Rise? Crucifixion? Forgiveness. All the words repeated ritually just might take on a new meaning.

We are smack in the middle of global change whether we wish it or not.  This “Holy Week” I contemplated who actually cooked the Last Supper.  Now there’s a subtle veering to the side  I honestly thought:  Wow!  The girls are at the market buying the lamb today (Tuesday).  Wow! The girls are prepping the roast for cooking and doing side dishes.  I even asked a Jewish friend what kind of side dishes would be at the Last Supper?  Sure it appears humorous but in fact, it’s kind of nice to wonder.  We glean over so much in our rituals.  And then I went to “Who cleaned up the dishes?”  Women quietly did their thing then as we do now but often invisibly.

What I’m trying to say is this:  What if we just threw out all the ritual repetition and allowed ourselves to feel the Rising from a very personal space.  Maybe we could throw out bigotry, judgment and taking any sides and oh yes, TWEET kindness for all.  Sure I’m Polly Anna again but Polly also rises. Our planet, our people, our nations our states, our cities, our homes just might HEAL.

Echoes on the Wind

At a time when tweets and sound bytes could easily disengage another beautiful day on planet Earth, I pause.  I pause because I can.  I pause because I choose.  I pause because I am in awe.

I’m here to witness CHANGE.  An old Chinese warning is “May you live in interesting times”.  Yes, indeed.  Yesterday, I proudly witnessed our youth marching with determination, focus and courage.  They were not alone. Older people walked beside them and behind them and remained silent.

These kids nation-wide and world-wide were not only gutsy to organize such a grand scale protest; they named it a movement.  Yes!  It isn’t going away after fifteen minutes of fame.  These kids have a plan.  Rolling thunder? perhaps.  But planetary change requires sacrifice, sheer guts and fearlessness.  I saw all of these yesterday and each speaker brought a sense of dedication to standing for an end to gun violence.

There were many moments of heroic speeches that will impact history.  However, the most moving for me was the young girl who read out the names of those ‘sacrificed” in Florida and then stood in silence.  Silence, silence.  Can you hear it? Can you hear the echoes of “Enough is enough, Never Again, and lest we repeat ourselves, shouts from the rooftops, “Never Again!”  Perhaps “never again” needs to become a mantra that is repeated over and over and over and over and over and over.

Please tell me that we won’t slip back into cerebral “conversations” on boring panels in beige meeting rooms with politically correct old people.  The youth are on the move. Yes, indeed, and I’m marching with them in my heart, in my mind and with my pen.

Perhaps we need to take several hours to read the list of everyone killed due to gun violence and then stand in silence, in respect, in grief and in dedication.  Can you hear the echoes or will they be lost upon the wind?

 

A Rare Kind of Courage

I lost a true friend this weekend.  She wasn’t human but she possessed the incredible attributes that make fine humans and fine dogs.  Maggie was a Golden Retriever who had become blind in adulthood.  In some ways it might have been easier for her as she had memorized so much of life by the time she lost her earthly eyes.

I pet sat her for a number of years and the very essence of that beloved pup seemed to remain with me even after I had driven away.

We had long conversations out at the common area where she particularly loved a variety of sniffs.   It was miraculous with its soft grass, wildflowers and yes, sniffable spaces.  I like to think she saw it all with her “other” eyes. When I walked her, there were the occasional bumps into objects that she quickly learned.  Later she became frightened of the tile floors that made her slide a bit.  Still, she carefully proceeded down the stairs to her pit which she had dug under a shade tree.  A gentle command of “Down” was all she needed to start the descent, and oh how she loved to roll in the grass. Pure Joy!

I loved sitting in the chair in the lounge with her close at hand.  We were buddies and I often read aloud to her.  Most humans don’t reach that far into pet assignments, but Maggie was NEVER an assignment.  I was honored to be with her whenever her owners called.

I like to think that since it is Chinese New Year, and the year of the Earth Dog, Maggie left at an auspicious time.  I also know that she is somewhere above us watching with her new eyes.  Her very gentleness fills the room as I write this last farewell.

The courage she taught me to go on in the face of all aridity will carry me through for many years to come.  Blindness never stopped her one instant.  It was, well, just something that happened along the way.  Wouldn’t it be fine if we humans had that much detachment and yes, courage?

Paws up to you, Maggins.  (This was my pet name for her).  As I sit and watch the falling snow, tears fall for one of the finest dogs I’ve ever had the privilege of caring for.

Pet sitting has become a true journey of the heart, and this fair girl will be missed, incredibly missed by us all.

 

Me and Maggie Dog

 

A Memory or Two on V Day

OK, It’s time for a confession of sorts.  I am a powerful babe but Lord have I tripped on a few misconceptions.  Before the dawn of time, I found myself at University with some fairly cool friends.  We used to hang out at The Grill at USC and our one goal was to impress one another.  One had to race for the latest copy of Times to speed read it and then casually drop pearls at the table.  Whoever pre-empted the others got the booby prize: a startled look and a “Dang!” from the others.  In those days, women scientists were few among the mix so the gathering was always lopsided with guys.

But on the Eve of Valentine’s day I was desperate.  I didn’t give a damn about the Times magazine and impressing the dreary lot.  I wasn’t dating anyone regularly and so the possibility of candy, flowers and silky nothings was somewhat remote.  But undaunted, I decided to put out a tiny request.  Of course I did it with perfect covert tactics.  I removed myself from the dialogue at that sacrosanct Grill and then interjected a thought into the mix.

“Y’know? It’s a shame we don’t all just simplify.  None of us girls need a full blown dozen of long stemmed red roses.  We’d even settle for ONE, One sweet little red rose bud.  After all, it says the same thing.  And by the way, it isn’t necessarily I love you forever.  It just kind of says, Hey, babe, I’m thinking of you.

I deliberately avoided eye contact but noted a silence in the group at that fated table.  Next day, I showed up after Chemistry class.  There was the same crowed of intellectuals and as I sat down, one of them, a good friend, not a lover, quietly handed me that red rose.  I have loved that moment forever.

Two years later, I found myself again, in a similar position, only at a different university in a different grill.  By that time, I had kissed a few frogs.  I had two closeted gay friends and I issued the same rose treatise.  They were professors and very very formal men.  I don’t think they were a couple, but who cares?

The next morning, I called in sick.  I just couldn’t face Valentine’s Day without a rose.  Call me a wuss, but I needed that validation.

On February 15, I resumed my research post and put on my lab coat and prepared for the day.  As I opened the refrigerator to get out some lab preps, I gasped.  There was a single rose in a vase.  Oh ye of little faith, I told myself and smiled.  The card read:  Hey, girl, no need to play sick.  Here’s your damned rose!  Happy V Day,  Ron.

Now, decades later, I still remember those two roses, both from men who were not my lovers, just my fabulous friends.  And YES, it was simple.  One rose.

Invitations of Various Kinds

Disclaimer:  this is a casual trip around the cosmos, with absolutely no direction whatsoever.  Caution:  Read at your own risk and not while driving.

Years ago, I read a poem entitled “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain dreamer.  I strongly suspect that this was not her given name but it matters not.  She gave it to herself kind of like my non de plume Madam Truefire.  I’m sure each has its own story of origin. Oriah’s prose poem is not flowery and it doesn’t rhyme.  I envy her that poem because every word speaks directly to my heart. After many years, it remains timeless and most of all precious. I wish I would have written it, but that’s the beauty of words that fly across the page. Sometimes they are mine and I have to wait for the ink to dry.  Other times they are on a printed page written by another author. I get to choose a variety of options: asterisk the line, put a tiny pencil mark at the side, roughly turn the corner of the page down or use yellow out.  It then starts to appear “dog eared” which is an intriguing term.

When I’m reading something fabulous, the yellow out marker makes some chapters literally glow in the dark, and somehow this means I’ve owned the book.

I love buying used books on Amazon and in cool old book stores.  In truth, Amazon gets fairly prissy over the amount of usage.  They don’t have a loved to bits and beaten up and scribbled on choice.  Some of the kooky old nook stores accept books with notes on the side.  I love those notes.  They say:  someone out there read this book too and this is what he/she thought.  Getting a brand new book is a different story.  It is clean, immaculate and no thought forms stalk the pages save one’s own.  It feels sterile and requires owning in the reader’s hands.

When I was in my early twenties , I found myself smack in the middle of what Kerouac called the Beat Generation. By day I worked in tropical medicine research at UCLA  so I wasn’t exactly the type to drop acid and lie around in a pile.  However, my student dishwasher in the lab explored the universe nightly with his eclectic friends. I was invited to some of those soires where philosophy majors, drugs and wine and much pacing and dialog occurred.  I always stayed straight and sober enough to drive home. And hallucinogens were off limits.  I figured I did enough spontaneous trips on my own without them.

When I left that position at UCLA  to go off on a wild goose chase love affair which ended in an off shore marriage, two kids, and a divorce, I felt duty bound to divest myself of certain things.  After all, I was “in love” with a conservative Australian physician.  I needed to rise to some level of dignity.  I needed to grow up. So I began to divest.

I gave that dishwasher my wine stained, dog eared copy of “On the Road”.  He could have squeezed it out and had a good modicum of wine to sip.  That day, he looked at me like I had handed him the Holy Grail.  It’s been over 40 years since that book flew into his possession by fate, and I wonder where that darling boy is.  I’ve tried to find him a number of times, but he remains elusive.  With the way he lived, he may have left the planet.  He loved marijuana and LSD and living on the edge.   His life was one trip after another.  I’ve often thought of that ragged book and that look on his face. It became his bible.

An aside if you will,

I proved my somewhat straight laced life style a number of years later.  The “traveling folks” had progressed from LSD to Ecstasy, the feel good hallucinogen. I called my friend, an opera singer in Malibu.  It was New Year’s Day and I wanted to wish her well.  She was the Empress of Events:  kooky spiritual gatherings in a salon in a mansion above the cliffs that overlooked the Pacific.

I was there for several of her eclectic events and I’m here to assure you that she would never lose her position as Empress.  Of course she was gorgeous with long flowing blonde hair and a voice like an angel.  Couple those attributes with exotic Thai silk caftans and she looked like she floated several feet above the ground.  She also possessed the keys to magic.  We all played our parts in her royal court.  I dutifully lit 100 candles and then set up projectors with slides of beautiful transformational images.  A lovely older black man always showed up to spontaneously create ambiance on the grand piano and jam with that exotic diva.  And then there was the grateful audience who often brought poems or just jumped from their silken pillows to spontaneously recite some eternal truth.

I’ve often wondered if Walden Pond was a bit like this.  Still, Emerson and Thoreau were New Englanders not Californians so it probably was far more reined in.

What I’m remembering now is that during one of her majestic salons, the Empress taught us all freedom, the ability to express beauty in any way we saw it.

But I digress. It happened to be New Years Day around noon.  I dialed her number and that sweet voice of hers drifted across the line.

“Darling!  Happy New Year, Darling!  You must come up and join us! We’re all nude lying around snuggling and need your Divine Presence.  We’re about to do another round of ecstasy.”

Maybe there was a time when I would have accepted that invitation and jumped for my car keys; but that day, the vision of thirty or so nudes on ecstasy, cuddling in a scattered pile was not my preference.  I wasn’t ever a goody two shoes but walking into the room, cold turkey, let alone into a pile of stoned naked hippies did not appeal to me.

I graciously bowed out with an excuse of having children returning from time with their dad, or maybe the biblical I am sorry I have bought me a team of oxen…Even the bible is rife with usable excuses.

But hey!  Back to page one after this rocky trip around the universe.  I long for the salon gig.  I’d stand and read Oriah’s “Invitation” with a background of the sea and a hundred candles twinkling.  Then again, I just might read some of my own prose while someone spontaneously dissolved those images of mine on the wall.

But, now there would be interruptions of dings of approaching texts.  Unless of course, I demanded a cell free zone and put a basket outside the door where one could dump all electronic devices.

Much to ponder as the bath water cools and the snow outside melts.

Another day of of What if I had Nothing whatsoever I had to do today at all.