Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Things We Miss In the Night

Last night I woke to the deep, non-musical hoots from a great horned owl outside my window.

Soon another owl began to hoot in a higher tone. This happened more than once, the two owls trading off hooting until they began to call simultaneously, and to my pleasure, in harmony.

The previously non-musical sounds took on a different quality all together. 

 I fell asleep thinking about all the things we miss in the night.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The lizard who had to grow a new tail

The Alligator Lizard had to grow a new tail

because someone tried to eat him.

He moves like a snake

and shakes his head side to side.

But before he moves his hands and feet

his tongue flicks and his new tail of a different pattern swings.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Woke up it was a May, 2013 morning

The right now

Morning birds in mountain view, a humming sewing machine while Jacob works on the cases we'll carry our clothes and other such things in on our backs this summer. The right now is morning, just before 8am on a saturday in May. The right now is sunny with the light streaming in through the window. The temperature is mild and the wind is absent of but a slight breeze. The building next to us is lit up, and I wonder if others have woken from their slumber. They might wake to the sound of the sewing machine. I am sufficiently caffeinated and I was using the iPhone app Jacob added to his library for me-the Audubon Guide to Birds. I can listen to recordings, and try to put a face to a sound. I use John Muir Laws Pocket Guide set for the San Francisco Bay. I listened to the barking hoot of the Spotted Owl and wonder if my recordings are an interloper to the resident singers outside. My friend Jazelle is on a drive from Tucson, making her way up to California. She is working on the Northern Spotted Owl project in the Eldorado National Forest near Lake Tahoe this summer. Jacob and I walked through that area two years ago and it was still very much covered in snow in July. She asked if she would need warm clothes. She'll be on an owl clock for her work, so I think she might need some new clothes. Owl work requires a different, night-rythym.

The where

Lone Oak apartments in Mountain View, the cement was laid around the lone oak of which our building was named. A young avocado tree is growing through the pavement in our backyard parking area, growing up against a fence that divides our building from another. It's struggling, many leaves are dead or dying. I try to pick out the dying or dead leaves to help the tree. I don't know how well it's going to fare growing in pavement. That would be tough.

Mountain View is a tricky place to people watch. Many people travel in their metal box protectors and move quickly, and it makes it difficult to watch. It's possible to glimpse as they speed on by. Even at a coffee shop where they sit, it's difficult to watch them, their image projections a tricky mask and the performance an addictive distraction for my imagination. I try to imagine other things about them, but there are so many shiny things. Sometimes there are breaks in the performance but I usually have to do something to confuse them, or entertain them, or put them off to stop long enough to properly watch.

The Who
Sometimes I'm just an image projection. Even this writing is an image projection-there is a great distance between the world and the word and what I try to share and sometimes I fail.

The Why
I like the potential for random encounters or the possibility to stumble over odd events or images. I fall on my face sometimes, and sometimes this is nice to meet gravity. I sometimes see someone or something do something different, something I could never imagine. I like learning something new from or about Jacob, the person I think I know the most. I'm interested in limits and constraints and open spaces and narrow tunnels and the light shining in an iceberg and river edges and river channels, and stories about discovery and stories about ordinary things. I like perambulatory excursions where I'm immersed in experience and sensation. I like the rhythm of walking. I like learning about how other animals move on land, how some use their appendages like us, how some use their body as propulsion like a snake, and how some roll up into a ball when they are scared. Sometimes we are just walking on by and kick up some dust and there are little and long worm-like larvae that leap into the air, coil themselves up, and hit the ground spinning as a fear and wind-powered wheel. They can't run, the wind carries them to safety. That's how they roll.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Concrete is

... a substance not so easily impressed.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Appeasing the backyard bird-feeder dreams

Some dreams latch onto your leg, pull you down, and whisper into your ear.

Some dreams grasp onto your elbow, and gently stroke the hairs on your arm. 

Some dreams swagger on by with a peacock strut and sly glimmer in their eye. 

And some dreams are the backyard bird-feeder of chatter.

There aren't enough ambitions, awards, accolades, responsibilities, duties, or morals to muzzle the buzzing, whistling, and screeching chitter-chatter of the backyard bird-feeder dream.

 Is 34 *17 degrees enough latitude for a backyard bird-feeder dream?

 (*note from a later time when I looked at a globe=34 degrees would be a much longer journey than my backyard bird-feeder dream) 

Monday, April 22, 2013

What not to leave behind

My good friend said, "What matters is what we choose to give to the world, and what we leave behind. That's why people have kids, have careers, write novels, paint pictures. We become what we leave behind." I love her and I admire her.

What happens to a person as we conceive a person to be after they die is a matter of faith and belief. Matter remains, but the person is gone. If I don't believe in God or gods, an after-life, and this is my one and only life; then when I am gone, I am gone forever. 

And yet our choices and therefore lives are endless, cycling reverberations. After we are gone, the reverberations continue in the conscious lives of people who we loved and who cared about us. The reverberations continue in our abandoned edifices, our emotional and physical landfills, in our waters and in our air. The after-life is real to the living of this life, in memories and minds, and in the world we inhabit.

While I'm here I can choose how I spend my time, how I treat other people, and how I treat the planet.

Perhaps it matters what we choose not to leave behind, the very act of defiance a message of love.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Pelican Foraging Frenzy

Have you ever seen a Pelican foraging frenzy?

If I were a Mallard or a Cinnamon Teal, or a Green Night Heron or another wetland dwelling feather friend I would be wary. 

If I were a silver or orange or yellow water swimmer I would be even more wary. More than wary, I would be afraid.

Pelicans forage in a flock; their tranquil glide a confused anticedent to a messy, floppy, splashy free-for-all with their massively powerful wings. 

A flock of foraging Pelicans form a semi-circle in which they ensue to pummel the surface of the water and scoop up fish or crustaceans and water. 

If I were the slough or stream or river I would be wary. The waves from a Pelican foraging frenzy crash or lap against the sandy or muddy banks-depending on where the sand or mud may stand. 

If I were a Killdeer or a Willit or a Stilt or an Avocet, I would be wary. 

Water churns, ripples echo, fish flea, and the Pelican foraging frenzy is an unforgiving fish herding contest. 

The prize in a pelican foraging frenzy goes to who can herd the most fish into their center. 

In a Pelican foraging frenzy water sprays and splashes, and along with unlucky fish, is collected into a wide and deep gular pouch, trapped between vertically held mandibles.

Unlike the unlucky fish, however, some water is released-as much as three gallons drain as the unlucky fish follow an unlucky path into the center of the winning pelican. 

Most are wary in a pelican foraging frenzy with the exception of the Pelican foraging winners.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Where do words come from?

... not a vacuum.

They come from messages I read, hear, or otherwise am exposed to in this here world. In an effort for me to understand the source of my words and therefore my thoughts, actions and behaviors, I'm forcing myself to generate a list. I was that kid that said a word I liked because I thought it sounded neat without actually understanding the meaning of the word. 

Occasionally I still say words I'm not completely sure the meaning of because I like them. This can be embarrassing or entertaining depending on who you are. I try to be more careful, but sometimes I just can't help myself.  Jacob and I had a conversation the other day about the fact that I didn't really understand the meaning of peccadillo. I had always thought it meant quirk, "we all have our pecadillos-deal with it." In fact, I'm pretty sure Robin Williams used it in this way when he and Matt Damon were having a therapy session in Good Will Hunting. I did not fact check that-but I think that is the root of my peccadillo misunderstanding. Peccadillo means sin as Jacob pointed out to me. Apparently he had pointed that out to me multiple times. 

I have a really bad memory. 
I like to think this is an endearing quirk.

Jacob then went on to say how frustrated he was that people used the word literally when they mean figuratively. Which is confusing. "It was literally 1,000 degrees outside." Saying literally when you don't mean literally does not add emphasis. 

I've been to the Mountain View Public Library a lot in the last year or so. I didn't realize I could track my reading list online and didn't click yes on my profile, so most of what I've read is lost in my mind. Perhaps the words come to me in dreams at night, or trickle into everyday conversation, or have made their way into my writing. I want to understand how words I read affect me so this is my effort to do so. This does not come naturally. I have to work at listing.

Without further ado: 

Books I've read in the last few months that I liked enough to remember now:

This Close: Stories-Jessica Francis Kane (2013)
Lucid Stars-Andrea Barrett (1988)
Servants of the Map-collection of short stories-Andrea Barrett (2002)
The End of the Story-Lydia Davis (2004)
Franny and Zooey-J.D. Salinger (1961)
The Psychopath Test-Jon Ronson (2011)
Them-Jon Ronson (2001)
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft-Stephen King (2010)
No Woman Tenderfoot: Florence Merriam Bailey, Pioneer Naturalist-Harriet Kofalk (2002)
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer from Within-Natalie Goldberg (2005)
Psychiatric Tales:Eleven Graphic Stories about Mental Illness-Darryl Cunningham (2011)

When I'm not doing other things and spend time on the internets, these are the sites I visit most frequently.

I like all of these sites for different reasons. If I had a million dollars I would donate it all to them for the work they do. Not all of it. But a lot of it. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Is it a sin?

He sports a down-curved bill shaped like a scythe. 

His cousin is a mockingbird.

Is it a sin to kill a thrasher?

Monday, March 18, 2013

I remember

...a mosquito net over a single bed in a room at the YMCA in Dar es Salaam. Bustling, gritty streets, open sewage, a lone woman defecating on the sidewalk. Young men with hipster glasses, colorful hats, t-shirts and frayed jeans, like any major city in the US. I remember long days stretched out, nights and days in equal measure all year long. Close to things, body odors mingled with diesel exhaust, goats and chickens and the smell of burning rubber and plastic. I remember holding hands while saying hello, sometimes for many minutes-I remember morning tripping over afternoon, falling into night, rising moon a flash-konyagi and a first cigarette. The first time alone in a house and a first heart break. A longing for friendship, for closeness. So close to isolation. I remember it not being my language or my song. I remember feeling like the worst sort of coward. Immersed but distant, foreign yet familiar, a family of strangers. I remember being a floating mountain. I remember missing home.

I don't remember nights wide awake with someone there but not there. I don't remember staying even after he had left, I don't remember drunken nights begging for a love existing only in my mind. I don't remember feeling empty, stranded, and broken. I don't remember living in fear of the stranger, wanting something concrete and spoken out loud and simple. Transparent. Honest. Colorful and bright. Light and full. I don't remember half formed sentences and explanations. I don't remember a dead year. Weighty, heavy, disembodied, suspended. Nothing held. I don't remember thinking, life is a long walk through a waterless stretch of desert. I don't remember long letters written to loved ones far away with a single desire to convince them of excitement, when in reality it was a trudge. I don't remember wanting so badly to convey my story, this story of a powerful and novel experience, the drama of my discovery of a conspicuously different culture. I don't remember a hardening heart, sensitivities calloused over, compassion merging into fatigue. I don't remember turning to disfigured conceptions of reality.

I remember a conception of reality debunked by existing reality. I remember learning to retain sensitivity. I remember somehow making a crucial connectivity with existing reality, engaging with a situation as it was found. I remember reaching out to another human being as meaning, as the most basic form of energy found in a shared experience, the wings of a hummingbird, or perhaps more subtle, a dove. The sound a faint flutter. An unwavering sense of life, of hope.

It is difficult sit in an exquisite space and rub against my imperfections. 
It is far easier to face coffee stains and stray hairs on the floor and leftover food crumbs, and moss growing in the windowsill than a spotless room. 

Sometimes I need to touch or brush up against my imperfections, my own personal fallen trees, shower mold, dirt prints - 

my own personal wild disorder.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

When you move around a lot

...things come in your mailbox from previous tenants. 

You learn their name, and occasionally, you learn something about them that very few people might also know. 

Or maybe many people know. 

You don't know them.

But in a way, or in some ways,

you do. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

What some people say sometimes

"I wish..."

"I want..."

"If only..."

"I'm so busy, I can't..."

"If I had...

more time
more money
more friends
more more more more more more more more"

"Why can't I..."


"You are lucky. I could never do that."

"At least you can put it on your resume."

"I have too many bills to pay." as she glides her freshly manicured fingers through her freshly highlighted locks and her diamond ring gets caught.

"It is so hard being me. I work full time with kids and a husband who is never around."

"Why me?"

"My job is so stressful."

"We just don't have enough money"

"I wish someone would just come in and clean for me, cook for me, and make everything hard go away."

"Oh, but that's because you don't have kids."

"I wish life were simple."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nobody tells the birds

... about international boundaries.

Tonight I will be on a flight headed south to Costa Rica to try to meet up with the little gray birds I became acquainted with last summer. Like them, I will travel at night. Unlike them, I need a passport.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sometimes stories are destroyed

Cement on my street explodes.
I've seen it buckle and crack, and fill with dust and shells.
Trees don't grow, bushes get tired.
Concrete is white and silence strikes like the hard light in the mid-day sun.
A silent dream is a place without a center, where history and stories fall as thousands or millions of corpses.
Memories are scared away.

But a million buildings stand, tall or squat, white-washed with windows covered in tinfoil and metal doors. Maps and plans come wrapped in foreign fatigues and foreign faces.

Our building was captured in silence. It is parchment, vague, distant. It is wrinkled like my grandmother. 

She said if you make a habit of smiling or laughing or if you let go of your words and sounds in any old direction, pieces of you can get lost and you'll never find them again when it's time to go home.

And all those pieces will fly off into the air like the birds, and they'll lose eachother. Like letters of the alpahabet, they don't have any meaning when they are alone. They aren't a word or a sentence or a story or a memory. 

My thoughts and feelings fly off alive and warm and get lost. Further from home than ever before, flying until their hearts beat out. 

A person can lose a home.

Thousands and millions of people can lose their homes.

Their stories and memories can fly away and become thousands and millions of pieces of lost words and lost sounds. When I'm old enough, I'll go back and pick up all the pieces and put them back together again. Letter by letter, word by word, brick by brick, the stories and sound birds will come home.
Science says everything is somewhere in a law called The Conservation of Mass. It says that it's not possible for anything in the universe to just go away. The somethings might turn into something else, they might be crushed or smashed, blown-up or destroyed, but the pieces and parts are all there. 

Is it possible, then, to put anything back together again?
Can you put back together concrete buildings with metal doors, cracked cement streets lined with trees and tired bushes, pianos, rugs, chocolate, laughter? 
Is it possible to put back together words once lost as fly-away letters, melodies once lost as fly-away  songs?

Words can hurt. They are solid. They can come screaming, obscene, laughing in the middle of the night and shout at you to leave your home. I wish someone would pray for sounds and memories and lost stories-they are trapped in hell.

Silence is not without sound.

When separated,
both are an exiled, 
meaningless noise without a center,

without a pattern,
without identity or family or story or memory,
without history,

without a home.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello 2013

Well hello there, 
2013! Do ya have any crickets? From, 
this guy.