Gone to seed. I let this bed go, after being away for two months in the early spring when I should’ve – but that’s just it. “Should haves” are more often than not simply silly. As in, too late, and besides the point. You didn’t – so there.

Instead, the bed is now heavenly for bees. A banquet. By doing nothing, I’ve allowed nature to do what it does.

And it is artful, ingenious, and oblivious. Unaware of its own actions, at least in the human sense of awareness.

Adapting. Surviving. A beech trunk. See whatever you want to see. It took me a while.

What does any of it matter? It didn’t come to be for “our” enjoyment. Its beauty is a bonus, a raison d’être, but not for us. The poppies don’t give a damn that I like them, they are colorful, brazenly so, because they want to procreate and need the bees, and the bees are simply happy. I get honey and more poppyseed – down the road.

But let’s take me out of the equation. I’m trying to take myself more and more out of the equation. It’s not easy. The pivotal moment was a few years ago when I was living under the redwoods and realized they were winning, and I was losing, and that was how it should be. I was an invasive species. Interestingly enough, I actually loved them more because of it. Or let’s say, I honored, even cherished them. Not that they care.

Maybe that’s the point. A shift in perspective. An adjustment.


Aside from a cabinet of wonders, life is a depository of leftovers. Rather than the fridge with science experiments, think archive that you have at times neglected. It isn’t a seedling or a young creature in need of your attention. Yet there it is, the past roaring back with projects long abandoned.

The ocean comes roaring back daily. Depositing only what’s in the shore-bound currents. Beachcombers marvel at driftwood or pick up lost objects from fishing vessels from near or far. And curse the careless who left their trash as if they owned the planet.

Returning to “cross” purposes, resurrection and Easter, the poetic license ladies came up with a challenge for April. It started with writing your personal alphabet, which rather organically morphed into the pivotal question, “How are you?” Ubiquitous and an important question in that all writing prompts are essentially … “well, how are you?” Shamelessly borrowing someone else’s wisdom here.

The challenge is to answer one (and the same) of the personal ABCs for 30 days in a row. I’m onto “Chainsaw.”

Your personal ABC is an act of allowing the past to roar back so you can float, marvelling as if at a piece of driftwood, loving it for its shape, the tireless work of the ocean waves, the beauty of whatever it brings up for you.

Visiting & Reverberations

There it is, the speckled floor at Capp Street House and my $10 boots from the thrift store in Ukiah. I saw a face on the floor and loved the red, and was oblivious to my own feet in the picture.

Layers of paint in a house stripped and glossed, a house that has seen overlays of installations which draw attention to and away from what had once been a lived-in space. Since the late 1880s when it had stood alone in what is now perhaps the middle of the Mission District. With nothing but trees and empty lots, open spaces around it.

Ghosts of the past. It is intentionally unclear who left what, and I love the fact that visitors can meander, touch, take pictures, linger, get as close as they want, touch-the-bedspread close. In other words, discover what is there for you to discover. Just as the last owner/tenant had used the house as an excavation site. Scraping, peeling, unearthing, collecting. The house itself as a resource and as a canvas.

And in the middle of all that, in one of the improbable storage spaces off a main hallway, there is this…

which is unnerving. A stairwell so narrow and shallow as to be painful and pointless. Going where? Like a portal to another world we are infinitely curious about but too afraid to enter, and yet, all the more inclined to want to look down into or enter for its promise of discovery. Call it a door to the underworld, a birth canal, or just a trap.

I had felt a sense of unease walking the old floorboards on the second floor, as if they might give way, as if they were just a mirage. As if this were a museum piece into which we were walking, a trompe l’oeil where every step might destroy us or it. The provisional flooring around the installation didn’t help.

I knew it well. It had been the subject of a recurring dream/nightmare. A bit of both because for years, I saw the improbable stairwell as a liminal space, a transition between one phase and another, between existence and LIVING, between complacency and freedom. Over the many iterations of this dream, my mind had pasted all sorts of houses I had lived in or imaginary dwellings into this dream – somehow all them had a narrow stairwell impossible for any adult to traverse without injury. The stairwells grew creepy and treacherous as this stairwell installation at Capp Street House was creepy.

The point being that I have no idea what is beneath the installation, but I knew very well what I would see after squeezing through the narrow stairwell of my dreams: the ocean.

Or whatever it stands for.


there was a full moon the other night, and I stood among the trees craning my neck as I used to on the back porch of my house that is no longer my house, but I didn’t think to take a pic and let’s face it, it’s not possible to take good moon shots with a cell phone.

so no images for you this time… instead, something from the ever growing archive. I question at times whether to keep it until I run into someone who reminds me about something I wrote a decade ago. It’s a little like watching an old film you used to love, where you can anticipate what comes next, and then are surprised by all that had escaped your memory.

Chasing the Full Moon with Juliana

A near full moon peeked past the redwoods tonight. 

It occurs to me how many times we spoke on the phone about the full moon. She was trying to capture it in Massachusetts with her fine digital camera for my story in Steeped: In the World of Tea. Even though it was supposed to be a tropical full moon in the forests of Sumatra, we figured it was the same moon. I would call her from Oregon to remind her that there was another full moon night coming, and she would call back and say, unfortunately the clouds were out on the East Coast. Or she had set up the tripod in the backyard, and then it had started to rain.

It went on that way for months, and meanwhile we talked about the cover photographs and other images, the props, the teapot and tea caddies and all sorts of tea stuff being mailed across the continent and back. 

I remember feeling daunted by the process – eagerly opening each jpeg she sent in her e-mails, trusting someone I barely knew to illustrate the myriad stories, the various lives and memories.

Earlier that year, 2003, I had driven from Vermont to Massachusetts on a hot humid summer day to meet Juliana at her home. Dressed in a long, pale yellow dress with small flowers printed all over, she stepped out of her bright home and welcomed me. She laughed in a self-effacing way, and I remember how tall she was and how small I felt. We talked, looked at her computer, some of the artwork as it was emerging, and I grew confident that all was well. And would be.

Throughout the fall, we talked on the phone. Watching the full moon. Discussing intricacies that I don’t remember and that can’t have mattered much. And then one day, she called to say, “I got it.”  She had captured the full moon. And we laughed. 


Cold coffee

A piece of Americana not exactly top of mind until I pulled this Wallace China mug from the kitchen cabinet in my temporary studio after the other mug had migrated upstairs.

Heavy for their size, thick, solid and taking only a surprisingly small amount of coffee for a mug. Unadorned, not prone to chipping, easily stacked, in fact the pure definition of “robust,” designed for restaurants, and that is where I remember seeing them. In diners on stacked trays, where the waitresses with aprons and a bow tied in the back would check the coffee refills of their customers in the booths. They’d stop at the double drip-coffee machine at the end of the counter. Bulbous glass coffee pots, one receiving a fresh flow while one waited on the hot plate above for its stage entry when the current coffee pot in the hand of the waitress ran low. If the going was slow, the coffee on the hot plate began to smell burnt. “Want a refill, hon?” the bow-tied waitress would say in a husky voice. And it didn’t matter whether the customer was a man or a woman. With a much-practiced turn of the wrist, she’d top off the mug on the table with watery diner coffee and make sure the cream pot was still full. If there had been any coffee left in the mug, it was cold and the refill, aided by half&half, produced a mug of lukewarm coffee with floating grease circles.

I never liked the mugs, the coffee seemed to go cold way too fast. But they were in use in just about every diner I visited from about the mid 1980s through the 1990s. It is oddly comforting to find the coffee still going cold much too quickly, and the weight of these cups being completely out of proportion to their size and volume. As if I were grateful for the things that didn’t change. As if the past were not a figment of my or anyone else’s imagination after all. Not that it was all good. It wasn’t.

And yet, here they are, these inefficient mugs, stored in kitchen cabinets, garages, and for sale at eBay as “vintage,” sporting a surprising price tag.

Made in Huntingdon Beach by Wallace China starting in 1931, each bearing a mark of the month and year of production. This one is from January 1956. Older than I am, it may well outlive me. Which reminds me of scouring thrift stores and yard sales in Los Angeles, picking up all sorts of jars and kitchen utensils from an era when things were made to last. Depression glass ware and Fiesta ware, pale blue Ball jars with weathered metal screw tops with Corning lids inside them.

What’s Been Handed Out

Six years of song sheets, flyers from art shows, church service, concert, theatre, and Fridays for Future, galleys from early editorial meetings – all stuffed in a box. Ten minutes learning to fold fish on YouTube. Two days of concerted ocean trash collection post the winter storms. Two days cleaning out the garage. Half an hour advertising and collecting donated wire hangers. The point was – make something with what’s been handed to you. No purchases (with the exception of glue and string).

And somewhere in the process, along came this eclectic winged creature.

Despite the flat surface, its footing is precarious. Lopsided, leaning but not falling. The tilt of the head is critical, it turns out. Aided by a clothespin. I had no idea how it might turn out, and it’s safe to say I expected something else – something more proportional, something more sure-footed, I don’t know – just different. But you never know until you start assembling. You do what you can, and hope for the best.

What sort of peace* are we hoping for, in good faith? What does it look like?

* justice * equality, take your pick

In Winter in War

Two weeks after the decorations are down and stashed away, and most of us have more or less embraced the new year, crowds streamed quietly from all directions toward the central church for a concert in honor of the Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. They packed into the pews and aisles filling the large space to maximum capacity down to the no-view seats behind the broad columns.

The Ukrainian children’s choir in festive golden headbands, traditional embroidered shirts stood beaming and on best behavior on the altar steps. Other kids in the audience were adorned, half-enfolded from one shoulder in crinkly, glittery transparent giftwrap. Shimmering little gift-wrapped angels, screeching to a halt near the modest display of slow-cookers with mulled wine, two cake forms and a basket full of chocolates and candy. Between the items, small takeaways beckoned, a red Saint Nick’s boot with some candy, a small package of gum drops, things like that. 

Like most of the 600 or so filling the pews and aisles, the star of the evening, the tenor and casting show finalist, Davyd Kadymian, has fled his homeland. He spoke filled with pride and gratitude. What emanated was sorrow. He had his small Ukrainian flag and clipped it to the mic stand. He had an interpreter, a piano player, and back-up in a guitarist/singer. The program began with the children’s choir and the Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, and ended an uninterrupted 90 minutes later with Ave Maria

In between, he sang from the top to the bottom of his heart and soul. The repertoire, from Ukrainian folk songs, hymns to hymnals, songs, and classic tunes all of us recognize, even if sung in Ukrainian. Silent Night. O Sole Mio. At one point, he asked that all Ukrainians in the audience applaud, followed by his interpreter calling any Germans in the audience to clap. Just so we all knew. They had gathered for that other warmth, that of proximity, community, and for the shared experience of a first Christmas far from home under distressing circumstances. We were there for perhaps many reasons, but essentially out of solidarity.

Nothing about the crowd or the entire afternoon was restless or loud. Memorable is the image of arms stretched above the heads before them, holding cell phones, recording the performance. Videos shared across borders, sound and images from this far northern corner of Germany shared with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Ukrainians, and especially those at home. We are here. We are alive. This is Christmas.

What a Christmas celebration ought to be like is a question for those far more settled. Often, the impromptu element is missing – and it is just that spontaneity that contains perhaps the most essential message of Christmas. Coming together under one roof with perfect strangers, bearing witness. Allowing yourself to follow an errant celestial body directing you to a shelter. And to be surprised.

If you’d like some audio/video check out Instagram # kadimyan_d

Lingering into the new

Venice in the distance, in the haze of a late fall day… in my imagination

on the edge…

at sunrise around 8:40 a.m. weeks ago.

The light is returning incrementally, and the pristine, virgin day calendar pages await my scribbles and their first creases. First appointments, Zoom sessions etc looking lost in a sea of weeks of indeterminate promise. What will we do with that precious time? What will I do?

The past year, unhinged from the present. As if we abandoned the building that was 2022 as it was collapsing around us, and look ahead at what is staring us in the face. The storm front from the west that blew open the broken skylight. Flipped it as the wind howled. Let’s see whether the cable tie will do more than its job. Crazy to think a tiny measure of resistance can act like a brake and thwart a destructive force.


Wishing all of you only the best possible outcome for 2023.


How we view things depends a lot on the light. Tiny things may suddenly sparkle. Or the uncompromising light proves the wrongness of our approach.

Take “sustainability,” a good concept that grows ever more hollow the more ubiquitous it becomes. A pledge without consequence.

The fabulously rich country of Denmark, with all of its 5 million inhabitants and more than double the number of pigs kept to feed its own, but far more significant international appetite for pork, goes out of its way to fund the arts and cross-border relations. It runs a center just two miles from its only land-based border as an info hub for border commuters, and finances and supports cross-border initiatives with schools and art/culture institutions, or even individual artists.

At my most cynical, I’d say, Denmark has the luxury of cherry-picking what they want from the country of 82 million next door. Maybe that goes for all border relations, we take what we want, to the rest we close the door. But that’s another topic.

Let’s not kid ourselves about generosity, we in the EU all fund these initiatives through our individual taxes. So… the Danes decided to stage K22 – a cultural forum focused on “sustainabilty” and the role of arts/culture institutions and artists in the transformation to a more sustainable future. They organised free transportation, breakfast on the bus, discouraged paper printouts of tickets and agendas, and shipped us off here…

Engelsholm castle, an arts college. A grand idea, a grand gesture, yes, with good intentions that got mired and derailed in the minutiae.

It starts with disposable coffee cups, plastic name tags, one-use forks and knives at lunch, evening sandwiches in Saran wrap. Sustainability? While these are certainly forgivable, and in the grand scheme of things minor, what was major was the planning and execution of the workshops. Reps from arts and culture, coordinators, even politicians, are accustomed to walking and chewing gum at the same time. When they show up, it’s because they want to network. When organisers fail to provide the means to communicate (two interpreters for 100 people working in smaller groups), you’ve shot yourself in the foot. When you decide to give three hours stage time to self-congratulatory speeches, self-promoting organisers and politicians, you have given up all pretense.

Networking … a forum to display your project ideas, your calls for cooperation, and an ability to introduce yourself to a small group and say what brought you there. Zilch. No poster board for calls to cooperative projects, no talk among the groups. Instead, prompts (in the sustainability workshop) for our ideas and no discussion. Only positive next steps, please. Which resulted in windbag’ish ideas like “all schools must have raised beds and be taught to grow food” or “all people should get a social visit if they want a social visit” or “augmented reality.” Come again? The “health” based workshop — take a wild guess — went to the forest and yoga’ed.

Many schools already have raised beds, many institutions preach about sustainability, recycling and separating your garbage has hardly put a dent in the production and pollution by plastic, but in the end, it still is what it always was with us all, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Even the e-mail list was a dead-end as European privacy laws forbid sharing personal information. Even if people agree to it? The mind boggles. One hundred smart, well-connected folks coming together, and what?

The road is long. We’ve known that for a while now. We may actually be too stupid to even see it in order to walk it, no matter how willing.

This is how Democracy Dies

Last night, two hours at the Q&A session with four candidates for mayor. At the central church in town which had invited them initially to talk about the increasingly rampant drug use & dealing, violence and social degradation around the town square. An invitation that quickly morphed into a general Q&A.

Contrary to other countries, elections here are low-key affairs. The funding is minimal. It’s up to the candidates to get any kind of campaign off the ground. As the four, two women, two men, stood before the northern Baroque altar inside the vaulted-ceiling pseudo basilica dating back to 1390, a phenomenal thunderstorm erupted outside which even those thick walls could not silence. We were protected but conscious. The interested citizens had shown up, but the candidates were mostly in agreement on most issues. Which is where the problem starts.

The only issue two of the four actually disagreed on were soup kitchens. Which is scary. A) Why are we even talking about soup kitchens in this spectacularly wealthy country? Yes, poverty is an issue in town, and yes, there will be more people slipping into poverty come winter, given energy prices, inflation and Putin’s insanity turning off natural gas supplies when it strikes his f***g fancy, the lines at the foodbank growing, but come on… soup kitchens like in the 1920s? a last resort that doesn’t address the underlying problem? – that was the discussion B) None of the candidates running against the incumbent actually had any meaningful suggestions what they might do differently or how they were fundamentally different from the current mayor – who has wasted money as if it grew on trees, who is abusing the office for a political career on the federal level, who is eloquent, approachable, likeable, friendly, but her words are empty. And she loves soup kitchens. Of course, she would.

The only candidate who is in serious opposition and unafraid to speak uncomfortable truths and who actually opposes the colorless blend of Greens-Conservatives-Social Democrats is unfortunately a libertarian who is anti-vaccination and anti masks. I cannot and will not give him my vote, even though when he spoke out about the hostile acts of the city administration over the past several years, he earned spontaneous and sustained applause – including mine.

Which begs the question, what distinguishes activists who glue themselves to paintings in museums or to streets or do tree-sits to combat urban deforestation from the angry mob that is racist, supports right-wing candidates, that is categorically opposed to everything government because they feel they are not being heard? I wondered as I found myself applauding someone I will not vote for, simply because he actually had an opinion I can support. The ever shrinking middle of society that supports neither end of the spectrum because they find both ends unpalatable ends up voting for folks who talk sweet and seem reasonable, even though they never bring about change. Everyone is pro energy conservation, wants to combat climate change, do away with excessive parking lots, expand the bicycle lanes even further, create more green spaces, promote public transportation, and none of them is responsible for the ill-advised building projects, the investment deals negotiated behind closed doors, the lies, the disregard of public opinion and public opposition.

It’s all hot air. I don’t know who to vote for and wonder whether it’s even worth voting. In the end, I will vote for one of those perfunctory, empty-phrase candidates just so the incumbent does not get a second term.

We may feel protected, but we are not safe.