>Body< a Poetic License prompt

The six feet of us, between us. At the market, I handle small pots of white and purple flowers, mulling over how many I can carry on the 1.5 mile walk home, given the grocery bag I’ve already slung across my shoulder. Set the flower pots down on an empty bench. The flower woman is packing up. I remain frozen as if the act of balancing the flower pots inside the bag were, is in fact, a major deal when I feel the touch of a hand on my shoulder.

An older man with snow white hair, masked, looks me in the eye and says, “Seize the day,” then adjusts the mask as if to lift it, as if to reveal his face, that is, himself as if I didn’t recognize him, but decides not to lift the mask. It would’ve been unnecessary because I don’t know him and we’ve all learned to recognize – are in fact recognizable to – each other with half of our faces veiled. He gets on his way, I buy the flowers.

How peculiar to think of myself as the older woman that older men pay attention to at the market. How peculiar to think our eyes speak louder than we thought when we were used to judging emotion, mood, attitude by focusing on the mouth, nose and chin. How surprising that we recognize each other by our hair, our posture, the way we walk. No mistaking the individuals in the sea of masked faces. So it is perhaps the soul that is worn on our sleeves and the windows of our eyes are transparent, and just that Sunday morning, the radio plays Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. The various iterations of “touching a perfect body” with one’s mind – she touching his, he touching her, and Jesus touching both.

What happens when these bodies lose their perfection? The mind is a wish-maker, a trickster that allows our minds to recognize gradually that we are changing, but it is slow and some part of it stays ignorant – as in, being asked about my grandchildren, or an old man touching my shoulder, and doing so because I am his age group.

In my mind, I’m still perhaps forty. Operating on memory, vividly recalling places, conversations, faces and things I used to do and learning gradually that they may all still exist (or not) but not in the here and now. It’s a bit like living on different levels of time and letting them continue, even though they’ve ended. And all of it through the single lens – not seeing how we are seen, but seeing others and recognizing them and their make-believe personas on a different plane. How that man at the market revealed himself in ways he never thought of then or since. And then – every seven years all new cells, but no new beginnings.

Home Cuts

The trees were planted in the 1870s.  At about a yard up from the ground, the copper beech trees had a diameter of almost 40”. Others had grown to 50”. A sycamore had a circumference of  40”.  Maples had grown even taller, thicker. All clustered around the slope of a natural spring. The saplings were left alone to grow undisturbed for 150 years, turning into  a natural forest that provided a home to bats, birds, and insects. When the saplings rooted, my paternal grandparents were born. Almost nothing of them has survived –  except a few letters and their genes. By the 1930s and 1940s they were both dead. 

The trees were doing well. One of the 100 odd trees of this urban forest – just one of them – had cleaned the air for fifty people in one day. And then came ambition and greed. The trees fell because someone decided they must and the politicians abided. I’m troubled by my rage. How did we end up split like a trunk that can never be reunited? 

One half was with the “illegal” tree occupiers since October 1st who persisted in sub-freezing temperatures, and the other half was outraged by “anarchists” from out of town setting cars on fire. The burning cars belonged to the investors. They can afford to lose a vehicle if they can afford to lose a healthy forest for their own personal gain. I know it’s illegal. Can we afford to lose another forest not to wildfire or drought but to greed?

The last thing I did when I left my home in California was to take a moment at the fairy ring in the backyard, place my hand on the trunks. I miss you. Hypocrisy. I used a wood burning stove for heat. For years. – Now I have lost a forest of my earliest memories. My parents at first carried, then wheeled me and later held my hands as I walked gingerly between them past the forest on our way home. I noticed its stillness, its darkness on the left slope beyond the railway station. It was home not just to us, but to the smallest ones among us. To them, it was habitat.

A tribute to “Bahnhofswald, Flensburg,” destroyed between February 19th and 22nd, 2021. With fond memories, and with love to the redwoods of the lower Russian River, Sonoma County, from a former resident.

Epiphany – Jan 6, 2021

Accept that you are not exceptional

Accept that we are not exceptional

By all means aspire to higher ideals

But, please, stop saying “if this were any other country”

And pulling whatever crosses your mind, like Belarus, or such,

Out of the ragbag of other places

Which you assume do not aspire to anything near as perfect

As that imperfect union

Accept that it is our country

Accept that it can happen anywhere

Accept that it has happened here

Merry Christmas

Not easy to say what it all means that has descended. Last December, on the last weekend of a year-long training, after passing by this memorial, we went to the small unheated chapel on the premises and bent our heads together as we lit candles and then sat in the pews and started singing. It occurred to me then that we would never see each other again, in that constellation, at that location, ever again. Precious. Unthinkable this year.

2020 was also a year of discoveries. Like that of spontaneity, out of the desire to practice one’s craft and share it, no questions asked, no money exchanged, as these two symphony orchestra members did when they played for the protesters in their treehouses who are fighting to preserve a healthy inner-city forest slated for clear-cutting to make room for a parking garage and hotel.

Or the peace of empty streets without mulled wine stands and frazzled shoppers.

And then there were the delightful “oops” moments on the Zoom learning curve…

On that note, look to the stars and be safe.

I.m.a.g.i.n.e

Imagine there’s no war, no greed or hunger…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

I was 20 then, at my first job in England, when we heard the news. Shortly after, the old bag Doreen, our bookkeeper, shuffled through the office with her perfunctory cuppa every hour, cigarette in one hand, cradling the steaming cup of tea in the other, and when we told her, she mumbled, “He must’ve done something to deserve that.” And the door fell shut behind her. Debbie, my coworker, turned her head to look at me and started cursing the old bag.

The memory is forged, imprinted by the ugliness, and won’t come apart. One won’t be without the other. In a deeply muddled, uprooted state of mixed emotions after having to (feeling compelled, obliged to) dig up my mother’s gravestone this past week, I’m learning there is no way to separate the parts that make up a memory. It is the whole that makes the memory. It is the whole that makes history. Never just one part to a story.

Com-muni-cation

…the beauty of unexpected encounters. Yakari is intrigued by the scent of my wool jacket. Could I be – even though a severely diminished, hampered by my two-leggedness – distant cousin? One of his kind? He cannot tell, but he keeps sniffing my jacket. Am I a weird, to-be-pitied alpaca?

The weeks of advent have arrived. People decorate street lanterns, windows, public buildings in anticipation of Christmas. I light more candles than usual. I’ve been moved in many odd ways recently. The alpaca is just the last of it. And I wonder whether it’s my own state that allows me to be that moved or a general mood or state of affairs or a general out-front-ness?

There’ve been numerous efforts and surprises – an impromptu Thanksgiving meal for just two people which in turn allowed for an intense conversation that would’ve never happened with six or ten people at the same table. An ordinary afternoon of press junkets turned into a thoroughly delightful four hours of roaming, taking pictures, and listening to people – pen poised – while being asked, “Do you want some mulled wine?” or “How about a Schnaps?” – as if everyone was ready to tell their side of the story. Their incidental experiences. To reach out. Including the alpaca.

To top it off, all the unfinished or rather the never-had communications about the unpleasant stuff like burials and gravesite plantings and care have a way of rearing their heads. Just when you never expected it. Which could lead into an entirely different piece of writing about how we care for our dead, and what that entails, and what does all of that actually mean. My guess is it means precious little for as long as we don’t seriously consider what it would mean to us in terms of where our remains are deposited, in what way. I used to think, oh what the heck, you’re dead. And then, in that uncanny way of life, the grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles get in the way, and then your friends, your siblings, and even your pets, and then some folks you know personally who are way younger than you are, and somehow or somewhere along the line, you begin to see the ritual of it all as a way in which each one of us is going to be remembered, honored as well. Or not. And that’s when I began to wonder. When someone decided to bury the remains of my mother where she had never wanted to buried. And I didn’t speak up.

Talk about communication. About willingness to listen across vast distance, many time zones. The distance can be vast in proximity.

Which makes me grateful. On many levels, including spending time with an alpaca sniffing me as if to say, “hey, you smell like my ancestors.”

Schneeberg

There are days that are just right, and just how right they were we won’t know until later. Like that day. Early fall dressing up in summer temperatures, the last time (for now) that it was safe to go there as this faraway, rural corner is now a viral hotspot. The last of the summer lull when the case numbers were rising, but no region had been declared high risk. Not yet. Barely three weeks later, different story. The two above (my brother and his daughter) are now residing in separate hotspots.

Robert Schumann supposedly premiered his Kinderszenen compositions for his bride Clara Wieck in Schneeberg. Click the link to listen.

Perhaps we’re all struggling this year to make sense of (and keep close) the things that endure in light of the many more immediate trials that are consuming all the energy. Distance and proximity. Safety and interaction.

Clear Instructions

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A small sign from the world I live in. Fills me with hope – for the courage to speak up, to stand up and oppose what is wrong. Even though things here are safe, and calm, and not wonky crazy (yet), there’s plenty of reason to be concerned and think of folks in places that are not.

So… I went out today – my increasingly dilapidated car in the shop – all day thinking what if they say ‘not worth it’ – is this the time to say, ‘no more car’ since it is a luxury to own one in a town that has public transportation and rail service – and maybe this is the year to dispense with some luxuries now that we’ve all learned to live without a few things we took for granted… and so… I bought a used bicycle.  And then rode it and walked it part of the way back home, overcoming in fits and starts the fear that, to me, is bicycle riding.  Never having had a bike as a kid, I ride them with a level of anxiety that will never leave me.  Bought my first bike at the ripe old age of 38, practiced on country roads and stopped when I heard a car coming because I couldn’t predict what I would or should do or not do.   I’ve improved.  But still…

Which made me think of the wondrous tasks we set for ourselves, or that others or “life” set for us. The unwelcome challenges, and I mean the ones that are superimposed and not just part of “life,” how do we…? I’m at a loss, finding the meditative minutiae of weeding, watching the bees buzz-quaking the white lavender (way better, if you asked the bees, than the purple stuff) and all that, a relief, a mini-vacation in that I vacate my work life full of deadlines and press dates, only to feel overwhelmed by the nefarious lies and sabotage that mean to upend the safety of the free societies some of us have had the pure luxury growing up and living in. The trouble that the office of the Registrar of Voters has gone through to make sure I (and my single little vote) is properly registered and that I know what to do this November is disconcerting – to say the least. Yes, clear instructions, indeed. And a lot of anxious wobbling along on uneven ground.

I swam

in

the Willamette River (maybe I shouldn’t have)

the Columbia River

Lost Lake

Farmers Creek

Nehalem Bay

Humboldt Bay

the Pacific Ocean

the Russian River

the Eel River

the Gualala River

Tule Pond

Austin Creek

Hulbert Creek

Lake Sonoma

the North Sea (Atlantic)

Wannsee (Berlin)

the Saale River (Saxony)

Kuhmühlenteich (Alster, Hamburg)

Stechlinsee (Brandenburg)

Flensburg Fjord (the Baltic Sea)

 

and some neighbors kids’ pools…

 

2005 – 2020