Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Shape of Letting Go


Coming home from the ceramics studio 
driving so close to your house
what used to be your house
I look that way 
think of you every time
feel a pull towards places you used to be
like my feelings are clay
and love is gravity.

Then driving down the eucalyptus hill
towards my home now
longing for the way you move
through the world and through me
my mind, my lungs, my heart
I work at my feelings like clay
and form the shape of letting go
and the shape of acceptance
and loving anyway.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Smoke Signals

Thunderheads and lightning on a hot day in Southern California. We drive to the post office and pass three fire trucks going the other way.
"I wonder where the fire is," my mom wonders.
An hour later, back at the house, I go outside and see smoke is billowing over the near mountains. I run through the house to find my mom. She's not there. Planes flying around carrying water. I find her outside directing the arrival of a new manufactured home (she works in the community where she lives, selling manufactured homes). I point at the sky, and hope she doesn't get too nervous. A few years ago, her entire community was evacuated. I'm a Wilderness First Responder and I know how to stay calm in emergencies.
"I know, I've been watching it" she calmly informs me.
We come back inside. I urge my mom to start packing now in case we are evacuated. My mom is much less worried than I am, "oh, the fire trucks haven't even come in from this side to fight the fire. Last year, they were driving up the street to fight it. Take this one," I carry the box of family photos she points out to the pile of papers and boxes. I go outside to check the smoke. Looks bigger to me. I pack my things. My mom calmly goes through papers. She tells me there's a phone tree in the community in case they need to evacuate. I pace. I go outside to check the smoke. There's more white in it this time. My mom tells me that means they are pouring water on it. I can smell the skunks that are nesting under the house. Another water plane drones by. My mom is still sorting papers, putting birth certificates and other things in a cardboard box. I pace. Earlier there was a single column of smoke that started billowing white from the water. It split in to two columns orange and black and spread out in either direction. The fire itself is a couple hills away, I can't see it, only try to read it's signals in the smoke. The phone rings. It's the call. I stand up. My mom answers. I hold my breath. She frowns. She hangs up.
"Is it the phone tree?" I ask, because she hasn't told me.
"No, it's a sales call," she laughs. I resume breathing and notice I have my hands over my heart.
"Oh." I sit down.
We check the smoke together. It's more spread out now, covering more of the horizon. But it's also thinner, more orange. My mom calls a coworker who's son-in-law works for the fire department and finds out that the fire is in Chihuahua Valley. We look at a map. I estimate it's four miles away at most. Another plane flies over the house.
"Well, this was a good little drill," my mom says good naturedly.
"Were you even worried?" I ask.
"Well, not really. We went through this last year and I was nervous. Now if it had been really windy, that makes the fires travel fast. But it wasn't particularly windy."
The sick feeling in my stomach is starting to go away.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hope

Hope is a funny thing. It's rope that burns your hand and also holds you, keeps you from falling.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Clay!!

There is a lot of stress in my life these days. Work, family, car almost getting towed because I forgot to move it on the day they were painting stripes on the street, you know, the usual. There was a time when my guitar was my journal and my therapist at once, I'd sing everything I felt. That doesn't seem to be happening for me now. 

But you know what is happening for me now? Clay! It had been about 8 years since I had touched clay, but I found out about Ruby's Clay Studio in San Francisco and started going to their drop in hours. Just to remember how to work the clay, I made a couple of dinosaurkangarooalligator creatures.  They are sitting on my dresser top now. 


Different people see them as different things, and I'm fine with that. I see them as full and happy of whatever I want to fill them with. Especially the fatso one with her arms around her belly. She's so full! Uhhhhh!


Now that they are done, the obvious next move is big slugs. 


There's something about moving clay around with my hands, all the mooshing, smoothing, cutting, forming, that is so good for getting my mind off what worries me. I don't think about whether the group in the field has enough water carrying capacity for their dry camp tonight. I don't think about my sister and her choices. I don't think about missing my partner and being lonely in this city.


When I come home from the ceramics studio I feel like I'm doing good work with my life, and am filling the rest of my time with worthwhile things. I feel like I am the person I want to be when I grow up. I feel whole and complete.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lo mejor de hoy:

Pitayas en venta al lado de la carretera.
Melón, piña, papaya y granola en la Comer.
Los mismos cuento de siempre con mi papá.
Muñeca Fea, la perrita nueva, linda, quisiera llevármela a San Francisco.
El caballito recién nacido que esta a la vuelta de la calle.
El alboroto de vida en el jardín.
Vainilla, suficiente para regalar.
Chacuacos en la mañana.
Que siempre pienso en regresar a Rosarito a vivir, aunque ya ni me la creo yo misma, pero no paro de pensarlo.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Favorite Parts of Today 5.21.12

My cello lesson, even though my vibrato still sucks. The notes are ringing more beautifully and my fingers know where to go sometimes without me having to tell them.
Harmonizing foghorns.
Sticking my bare hands in to a pot of hot sticky rice in a failed attempt to make onigiri. It all stuck to my palms and fingers, which is what made the rice balls not work, but was also the best part.
Standing outside my apartment looking at trees.
Setting up my tent in the living room.
Eating so many longan berries.

What were yours?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Favorite parts of today

Favorite parts of today:

My roommate making me strawberry peanut butter nuttela toast to thank me for cleaning the fridge.
Waking up to birds singing.
The part of Sweet Potato Bug that I play with my index finger walking up the D chord.
Finding the salsa I wanted at the grocery store.
Drinking water out of a big jar.
Sitting on my bed and reading.
Finding out a childhood friend is engaged and seeing her cute family photos.
Vacuuming my toenail clippings off my bedroom floor, finally.
Thinking about my sister and how despite everything, I love her so much.

What were yours?

Update from a little later:
Hearing that coyote outside my apartment.  My San Francisco apartment.

Drunken Beetle

Sweet Potato Bug
Sleeping in late again
You never ask for anything but to be loved
And the world offers itself to you.

Sweet Potato Bug
Staying up late again
Smiling you dance when you're drunk on the light of the moon
Like a beetle in a Hafiz poem

Finally, the beginning of a new song. It's been a while. This song may never get finished. I may scrap it by next week. But it's good to have a song happening. And thanks to Serra Sewitch who first introduced me to the Hafiz poem "What Should We Do About That Moon?"

Friday, March 16, 2012

Letter to Ira Glass and the Producers of This American Life

Regarding the Retraction Podcast


Dear Ira and producers of TAL,


Over the years, I've come to really love This American Life, and you Ira, in particular. I feel like I know you like a friend. A friend who is always telling me good stories and listening to others with compassion, and beginning sentences with "I feel..." and being open about how others see things and willing to really try to understand why they think the way they think. I feel that approaching others in this fashion builds bridges between people, which leads to peace. Inner peace, peace between people, world peace. Some kind of small piece of peace. This approach matters to me because this is a way of moving in the world I constantly strive for. And this is what makes me feel like you are my friend.

I just listened to the Retraction podcast (#460) and it has moved me to want to be there for you the way I am there for a friend going through a tough time. This has been the most moving episode of TAL that I've heard. Really.

When I was 16 or 17, I found out that ####### had been sexually molesting a number of my friends. When I confronted him about it, he twisted the story. He justified. He lied to me. The silences between your words and between Mike Daisey's words sounded to me like that day in that conversation, when ####### whom I loved and trusted, turned my world on it's head. I wanted to believe him. He also wanted to believe himself. He needed his version of the story to be true. And that made things even worse. 

In your voice, I could hear you wanting to believe Mike Daisey. Wanting him to just explain why he lied. I mean, you even said that. You went so far as to point out to him why it would be okay to admit it, giving him a very human reason why he may have chosen to lie. And he wouldn't do it. He needed his version of the story to be true. And that made it even worse. I am so sorry, Ira. I recognize that finding out someone lied to you in a journalistic sense and finding out ####### is a child molester are different in many ways. But I imagine you are sick over the possibility of your loss of credibility, an intangible thing it takes years to develop and can be broken in an instant. This is not so different from breaking someone's trust.

####### later admitted to me that it was true. This may be the main reason I've been able to reach the level of forgiveness I have. But today, a decade and a half later, I still don't completely believe anything he says. I hope so much that this doesn't make you less trusting of people on your show, less compassionate or willing to hear their stories. I hope you are still able to build bridges of sound and understanding between people. 

Maybe there are listeners out there who will be angry with you, who will trust you less. Who will like TAL less. I'm writing to let you know I'm not one of those. I am impressed at how you and the producers of TAL are handling this. I empathize with your fear, embarrassment, anger, broken trust and feelings of betrayal. I stand behind you. I still love and trust your show and the part of you that I know through the radio. I think even more now than before.

Thank you.

Diana Caplan

P.S. I donated $10 tonight, just to prove that I mean it. I know it's a small drop in your bucket, but it's enough to make me feel better about all the times I haven't donated to your pledge drives. 
P.P.S. If this email goes anywhere public, please just replace the parts that say "#######" or "#######" with "#######" or whatever. I will speak out against him in an instant (and have in the past) if I think he is still molesting kids. I honestly don't think he is right now though, so I don't want to mess up his life unnecessarily by going public with it again. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hummingbird nest over the trail.

Twin hummingbirds this morning in the nest over the trail. Waited until the mother bird came. Watched the feeding amazed her hummingbird beak didn't poke holes in their throats.



Friday, February 24, 2012

I Caught A Rat By The Tail Today

Journal entry from 2009:

I caught a rat by the tail today.  
Sorting through my things in the driveway, I heard rustling under the tarp. I looked and there it was. I thought it was a mouse. It wasn't very big, the size of a large chicken egg, big cute eyes, big cute ears, furry tail. Furry tail? Yes, furry tail. 
Reaching down I tried to grab it's cute tail but it moved. I then put my finger on it's tail and pinned it. I yanked my hand back, afraid it would turn and bite me. It ran off then. 
Later, I saw it again. This time I grabbed it. Holding it up by the tail I was suspecting it was sick. No way would a healthy rat mouse let me grab it twice like that. Just lean over and pick it up? 
Ma said it must be a kangaroo rat. That makes sense to me. It was way cuter than any house mouse or city rat. Holding her up, looking her over, I wasn't sure what to do next. Didn't want to just kill her. Didn't want to let her go in the field. If she was sick it was probably from rat poison, and anything that ate her would get sick, too. 
I ended up putting her in one of my plastic boxes with a dish of water and a piece of bread. She'll get better or die, then I'll let her go or throw her in the trash. She's dying though. Getting weaker. Laying sprawled, eyes closed, reacts less and less when I come near. She'll probably be dead in the morning. 
I never want to use rat poison. I'd rather use a trap than poison. What a terrible way to die. What a waste of life. What a terrible way to poison an ecosystem.

Epilogue: The rat was dead the next morning. I threw her in the trash. Later that day, in my mom's shed, I head rustling on the shelf. Another rat peeked it's head from behind a plastic tub, beautiful and alive. After briefly weighing pros and cons in my head, I pushed the box suddenly backwards, breaking the rat's neck against the wall. Threw the still beautiful dead rat in the field.

On Listening To My ipod In Spring

Sometimes the world has too much to say to just stop listening.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Parks, pine nuts, panties.

Bent over in the road, searching in the dirt, I turn around to see a mountain biker coming up the steep hill. I pick up the enormous pine cone next to me and move to the side of the road, out of his way.

"Hi!" I say, I feel self conscious.
"Hi," he says, stopping his bike a few feet from me.
"Uh, way to go," I say, motioning at his bike. It's a steep hill in a park of steep hills and we are miles and miles from the nearest trail head. I'm pretty sure I would barf if I was trying to ride a bike out here.
"Thanks," he says, "what are you doing?"

I'm alone in Henry W. Coe State Park, the second largest state park in California. My pack is sitting neatly on the side of the road, under the gray pine. I have salt crusted around the edges of my nostrils from hiking in sweaty weather and blowing snot rockets. I'm wearing a skirt and hiking boots. I don't know how long he got to watch me before I noticed him. It's an obvious question.

"Collecting pine nuts," I say, relieved at the chance to explain myself, "theycomeoutofthegraypineconeslikethisonehere, want one?" I offer him a precious seed. For 20 or 30 minutes, I've been tossing the pine cones around to make the pine nuts jump out, and then happily squatting to collect them from the ground. My skirt reaches below my knees, but when I squat like I've been squatting, my knees come up to my chin. It doesn't count as showing your underwear if there's no one around to see. But obviously now I'm not alone. I wonder if he saw my panties.

Pine nuts from the gray pine are enormous (for a pine nut) with beautiful thick black and tan shells. They taste deliciously roasty, better than any store bought pine nuts I've had. I crack them open between rocks when I eat them and tell him so. He tries to crack it with his teeth. I wince, sure he'll break a tooth. He remembers he has pliers. I go back to picking pine nuts out of the road. These particular pine cones have lots of pine nuts in them, and I'm excited by the bounty.

"You come here often?" he asks.
I tell him I come a few times per year, that I work in outdoor education, that I have two groups of students out here and I carried a re-supply in to one of them yesterday, that I'm on my way to check on the other group, but I've been delayed by the pine nuts.
"So they come out for the weekend or something?" he asks.
I tell him they're out for 10 days, that today is day 8, that they carry a week's worth of food, that I carried more food in for them. I tell him there are instructors with the students and I come out to bring the groups food, but also to support the instructors with behavioral issues.

He squints at the sun. Or maybe he squints at me. I'm 5'3". I'm wearing a skirt. He's much taller.

We chit chat about the avoided park closure. Henry Coe was on the list of California State Parks due to close because of budget cuts. One of the park volunteers donated a bunch of money to keep it open, so now it's okay for three years. Which is good for him, he's been coming out here to bike since the 90's, and it's good for me because it's our biggest course area, bigger than Point Reyes or Big Basin. And because I like rolling hills and oak woodlands. And because I like pine nuts.

We make motions like we are ready to leave. I give him a small handful of pine nuts.
"Do you have a business card?" he asks.
"Not on me," I laugh, "I have one in my car."
The idea that I would carry a business card way out here in my backpack just in case I make a business contact is funny to me.
"Well, you are so nice, I just thought, maybe," he explains, and I realize he was asking me for my number. I would have answered more carefully if I had picked up on that. And then I would have found a way to mention my partner.

We say goodbye and he rides away. Slowly, up hill.
I put my pack on and hike away. Slower, up hill.
I still think he may have seen my underwear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The foghorn warning cries
I know the weather before I open my eyes
water drips under the cypress trees
wetting the ground where I walk on my knees.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Red Door on the Right

I'll come calling
red-wing in flight
whistling freedom
lonely as night.
The silhouette of a ghost is there
lift my feet and dance on air.

I'll come calling
at the red door on the right
lean into the furnace
ward off the night.
I left my boots on the cobbler's stair
this sole of mine to be repaired.

I'll come calling
coyote in the night
laughing, howling,
chance that I might bite.
Don't move fast in the brown-eyed stare
I might still run if I get scared.

I'll come calling
red door on the right
lean in to the furnace
close my eyes.