Organized Space

Sometimes I feel like climbing into my linen closet and curling up by the ironed pillow cases and the bar of scented soap. It is probably the only place in all of my living spaces that is, at the moment, quiet and serene.

 The rest of the house is in turmoil. That's the only way to describe it. Since we lost the tree in the backyard, our guardian of traquility and calm, I have been unable to get a grip on any of the chaos not only in the back yard, but also in my house. I sit and look at all of it, sometimes feeling that if I can just envision order, it will be done. I know it requires effort that goes well beyond looking, no matter how intense or analytical the looking may be. [read more]

In a New Light


Today my garden is in shock. The Maple Tree is gone, and all that remains to remind us is a stump. Everything that grew in its protective shade has either withered completely, or expressed grave trauma. The grass that was lush and green beneath the tree turned brown overnight. The bed of rosemary and lavender was buffeted and branches broken in the process of removing the eighty foot tree; there was no way to avoid that.  

And today I have done further damage to the rosemary and lavender as I try to reorder, prune back, and encourage new growth. It is going to take some time before we can see real signs of recovery. The light is so different now. There is so much more of it, and in this hot hot California summer, it can burn new growth and damage old growth, too. [read more]

New Perspectives

Today I have been trying to capture our one-hundred-plus-year-old tree with my two-year-old camera. I can't do it. And I realize as I try one angle and another, one frame and another, it isn't the camera's fault.

The tree was here long before we were here, long before this house was built, and there are so many dreams and hopes caught in its branches and feeding those green, green leaves, that no one lens, no matter how technologically adept, can catch it.

But the tree is struggling to survive. It is dropping branches it no longer has the strength to hold. Those greenest of leaves unfurled slowly this year, and they are smaller and not nearly as profuse as in the past.  [read more]

Mutability and Constancy

Mutability and Constancy


It's February 1973 and we have been in our new-old house in the San Fernando Valley for two and a half months. I don't know it yet, but I am pregnant with our first child. I am a transplant from the Westside of Los Angeles, and the valley is a little rural, a little unfamiliar compared to the more cosmopolitan (if you could call it that in 1973) Westwood, Hollywood, and Santa Monica of my previous world. 

I still work at UCLA, so every weekday I make a roundtrip over the Sepulveda pass or the 405 freeway.

But today is a Saturday, so I am home in my kitchen, making a phone call to my grandmother who lives in West Hollywood. We talk every day. And I talk every day to my other grandmother too, and my mother. We have that generational connection, for good or ill. [read more]

Still Life

Whenever I see old family photographs, they often look as if the whole gestalt of that moment were peaceful, tranquil. If by some magic you could go back there now, maybe you could wander out of the frame and enjoy the picnic, the party, the holiday, that was the occasion for the photo. People seem to be enjoying themselves because after all they are all smiling, right? You don't get what went on before the moment caught on film, or after. All you have is a person with a smile, or maybe a funny face. 

 My son posted a picture of me with my mother on Mothers' Day this year. I must have been between two and three years old, and because the picture is not that clear and the faces very tiny, all I ever saw was my mother, perfectly groomed, and me with my polished white shoes and yellow dress holding her hand and waving.    [read more]

Catch Me if I Fall

I recently took a road trip to Sacramento, driving alone up the I-5. This is a trip I made many, many times when I was working, and although the I-5 has never been known as a picturesque drive, I always loved it. The California landscape is never boring to me. The mountains are lovely, even sensuous with their undulating contours and changing colors.  Wild radish and mustard, lush California lilacs, line the roadside. The tumbleweed and scrub grass scratch the dirt, farmlands have gone to dust, trees dead and uprooted, alongside carefully tended groves of citrus or almonds. Sheep and cattle graze the hills, and horses, too. If you are lucky, you can catch a rainbow or a sundog. I saw a tiny little cloud this time, with a turquoise tail, fading slowing to rose and then pink. Astonishing in the hot, barren, blue sky. [read more]

Spring Cleaning

Cleaning up a fairy garden means that first you have to find all the fairies and give them a bath. Then it may be necessary to refresh a little paint here and there, no matter how hard they try to resist. And if they have left their Winter Solstice decorations up, you must retrieve those, clean them up, and find safe storage so that they can be used again during the appropriate season. There is always a question of how the furnishings have been rearranged, as well. If you have a cat or a squirrel that likes to visit, or a bird looking for nesting materials, you may find that your tables, chairs, mushrooms, and sundials have been pushed about or overturned. Weeds might be an issue too, although it can be hard to tell, in a fairy garden, which is a weed and which is something the fairies may consider important for food, or perhaps ceremonial events. Take dandelions, for instance. Those are absolutely essential to fairies, and you must not disturb them. [read more]

Steady as She Goes

This picture breaks my heart. Young girl with doll, washing hanging on clothesline [read more]

Now Hear This

Government business in government buildings grinds slow, inching along while endless conversations and copy machines murmur and people are restless in folding chairs, on dirty seats stained with coffee or soda or maybe even body fluids. Rehearsing what you will say, not paying much attention except to track your turn, you wait. If you want to be heard, you wait.

There is a stolid, yet stuffy, pretense in the walls, and the floors with dusty corners and the finger-printed woodwork, trap stale, much-used air. Someone opens a pack of gum, someone uses hand cream or lipstick and for a brief moment there is a sweetness of mint, vanilla, or cherry. But only for a moment. Someone opens a restroom door and the sweetness is swallowed up by the public latrine. [read more]

Journey 1991


There is a particular longing, ever-present, and unnamed 

permeating into areas ordinarily inaccessible if circumscribed by specifics.

How, then, can it be a particular longing?

But it is something -- something unclaimed, wandering loose, or sitting forlornly, like lost luggage.

A sensitivity stripped bare? A need for astonishing uninhibited connection?

The thought of living shrouded is a continuous, dim discord. 

Wings may be called for.

There are eyes, legs, hands, lips, breasts, a heart

too long constricted.

That longing itself made small, unimportant, by necessity. [read more]

Driving North, 1959

Driving North, 1959

The silence was stacked like blocks of ice between them. Dad was driving, his shoulders defeated, and mom sat in the passenger seat, her lips a thin, tight line. I was in the back seat trying to keep my brothers interested in a game of Alphabet. No Quaker State Oil signs to be had, so we were stuck at Q. The boys finally slept after watching miles of California mountains fade to black as the sun sank behind them. [read more]

Dreaming Christmas

What is your Christmas dream? Every year I start spinning holiday fantasies long before Thanksgiving. I find myself rummaging around in early Christmas memories and building a chain that links to the present.   [read more]

More than I Knew About Myself -- and Less

The things we are told about ourselves and our family history shape who we are.   [read more]

We Need to Have That Conversation

The act of caring for plants, digging in the dirt, has also become a journey into my past.  Pulling a weed here, trimming a dead branch or clipping spent blossoms, I am making a more orderly, accessible garden. And while I am doing all of that, in my head I am weeding and trimming old conversations, events, trying to make sense out of what could have been said or not said, what could have been done differently, what would have fit the place, the occasion, better. I want a clearer picture of my particular past, and a deeper understanding, but I often find myself without the proper tools, wandering in a kind of wasteland -- weedy, overgrown, and barren. I am wounded by old thorns, find myself sticking in the mud of ancient, acerbic, family relationships.  [read more]

How to Cook an Artichoke

Today the news is full of predictions. The end of natural food sources, the end of water supplies, the grim fact of more global warming than previously predicted, the unsolvable conflicts in the Middle East, the immorality of the corporate world. So my choice is not to focus on any of those particulars but to get right down to the business of offering my experience with cooking artichokes. How mundane. But I think you will see my point as you read along. [read more]

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