The bay at dusk was still and full, reflecting the colors of the pink sky, clouds touched with orange, and the bone-white moon. We swam out to the empty mooring, where the sailboat ‘Passion’ has been moored for months. It was a relief to see it gone. The bay opened up again. The water was dark green and clear. It felt like fresh water, but just a bit more viscous than that. It was cool. My toes were numb after. But the water on my body, the clear bubbles of life that my swimming body pushed out of the water...they were real. Swims like that could hold a lifetime. I have no desires out there. I’m neither lonely nor impatient, neither overwhelmed nor distracted. After, I carry the way of the world inside me.
posted by Lisa on 7:10 AM link |
If you’ve only been to Hagemeyer Pond on sunny afternoons, you’ll only know it as a haven for nude sunbathing, where solitary men pry with their eyes, where secret sly movements are broadcast in the still landscape, where it’s best not to look at anybody if you don’t want to see that.
To avoid these people, that scene, my friends and I arrive later, towards evening. When the bright tanning sun has gone, the sunbathers scurry away in their clothes., leaving the glade to reset itself as a tranquil cove. The pond settles, it’s dark cool water shimmers with the last direct rays of sun, then turns inward reflecting nothing. Muskrats and pond turtles find new courage to glide across its surface. A great-horned owl stirs, moves from branch to branch. A last startled frog leaps from the bank with a small screech. The tall pines that surround the pond, riding high behind it on three sides darken into evening greens. We approach quietly, hoping to see egrets, herons or resting turtles.
I can’t come here without thinking about 9/11. We came here often during those still days, the quietest days our generation has ever known. The first day we were here alone. We sat still for hours, watching a family of owls, the juvenile learning how to hunt, trying out its hooting voice. We’d look up at the sky and hope to see an airplane. There was no laughter, no conversation about personal matters, no letup from the stunning grief, the unrelieved shock. The world was a clean slate. There was no yesterday and no tomorrow. There was only that pain, that quiet.
posted by Lisa on 7:19 AM link |
Last night I dreamt that I’d witnessed the death of Barbra Striesand, and that later I had to go back and witness and help with the removal of her body. I was inconsolable.
Later in the dream, at a courtyard event, many people demonstrated their grief for fallen soldiers by walking around swaying their arms in a loose circle over their heads and back down. On the downward stroke, their bodies would drop to the side, loosely falling toward the ground, then come back up as their arms began their upward swing.
After watching for a moment, I joined in behind a woman, moving through the aisles where chairs had been set up.
The ficus trees in the courtyard were decorated with delicate, leaf-shaped lights—elfen and ethereal.
posted by Lisa on 8:05 AM link |
The lot down the path was cleared earlier this year--a couple of trees came down and the underbrush was cut. Now the story poles have gone up and the initial plans have been revealed. From my cabin, only a little bit of orange (flags draped across story poles to show rooflines) shows through the trees. When the house is completed, in gray composite roof and greyed cedar shingle, I probably won't see it from here--only its lights will be visible at night. It will light up the trees below me, as I now light them up for my neighbors. Some other neighbors will have a slight view of the new home. The main difference for all of us, for all who've ever lived or spent time here, will be seeing a house on the path to the beach.
It's always been true, that once you enter the path, walk between the redwood stands, you enter sacred space. Out the other side when you emerge from the forested, creekside, leaf-mulched path, you'll be at the beach, that wide-open space of light and water, another country from the walk you just took. The path itself is the time it takes to begin to ready yourself for appreciation. It is densely green, from the swordferns to the carpeted trunks of coast live oaks that bend out over the stream. Leaves of buckeye, madrone, tan oak and live oak provide shades of green sky, lit daily in new displays by sun diffuse or pointed. Somewhere on the course of the path, you feel lighter, some of the world has dropped away from you. By the time you arrive at the other end, that tunnel opening to light, the anticipation of water has built up in you, has diminished other concerns. Your mind must be clear when you reach the beach so that you can fully see what is there. For each day and each hour brings a new beach, new color of water, new light in the sky, new color of hills, new shapes of clouds, new density of fog, new wind from a new direction blowing whitecaps just over there, new.
This beach is called Teacher's Beach because two teachers in Inverness in the late 1800's used to hike down here through the unpathed forest to bathe and swim here in solitude. Others in the town let them have it, as teachers were always single then, protected in their spinsterhood or virginity so that they would remain unspoiled by the world. This beach has held that feeling for all of us fortunate enough to live here. It is where we find rejunvenation and solitude on the path, and in these waters, the baptism of purity.
I hope the story poles come down soon. I'll try to forget the plans, at least while I walk. I'll watch the deer feed, see the light brazenly soak that unprotected swath of land, and for a time each day, I'll continue to live with the illusion of solitude. Only for awhile.
posted by Lisa on 7:46 AM link |
A long phone conversation with family back home is soothing comfort after a lonely day. Passed by hand from one person to the other throughout the room, with comments thrown in from the those in the background from time to time. Topics range from bikinis and whether youth and beauty are meant to be celebrated or embellished to the little one graduating from Kindergarten and leaving public school behind for home schooling--or as she puts it, "the best school"!
Talking with the 11-year-old is the best for free-range conversation. It stays neither too personal nor ever veers too far into the abstract--an easy flow between what it is to be alive and cultural and literary references. We talk about living amongst bigger people in "The Land of the Giants" and "The Borrowers", neither of which she's familiar with. From there she riffs about the latest version of Grinch, where the entire town lived on a snowflake. From there we talk the new version of Peter Pan, where Peter is closer to Pan than the Disney idea of Peter. She points out that Pan was half-goat and that this Peter has his ears and his costume. I haven't seen it, but like the look of this revised Peter, closer to his mythological ancestor and closer to the earth, too. Then we talk about sisterhood, how it is for her and her sister, how different they are, and how she wishes her sister were closer to her age. We say how different we all are, and that age may or may not have any bearing on it--their natures might just tend toward different styles. She closes the loop with a reference to "Freaky Friday" and that it's about people getting into each other's skins and learning more about each other.
I hang up and add two movies to my Netflix queue. I feel that I've been with them--not feeling so alone anymore. I can almost feel the warm Los Angeles air and see the lights from the harbor. I can almost smell the girls' hair.
posted by Lisa on 7:04 AM link |
Sometimes it’s called idiopathic vestibular disease, other times just old dog vestibular, but you might only know it when I describe that after the episode, my dog acted like a drunken sailor. She had two episodes this week, the first lasting only a minute or two, but the second, more typical, lasting a few days. She’s almost completely herself again, except for a residual dizziness, a little more unsteadiness than her usual aging self. It’s most noticable when she shakes herself or when I set her down after lifting her out of the car’s seat—it’s difficult to keep her feet under her and she may tumble. But she’s regained her ability to walk without help, and the head and eye twitching have disappeared altogether.
Throughout, my dog has kept her good naturedness intact. Happy as ever to see me, or anybody else, even during the times when she couldn’t walk a couple of steps without walking into a wall, she was happy just to be alive—like she’s been her whole life. During our late-night drive to the emergency hospital, from out here in west Marin we had to drive 45 minutes, even though she was in the middle of severe muscle twitching and dizziness, she laid down on the seat next to me, her head in my lap when she could keep it still, listening to me as I talked to her about all the people she’s known, dogs she’s played with, and favorite places she’s been. I thanked her for all her love, and made vague promises about beaches and swimming and tomorrows. I wasn’t sure I believed them at the time. But it turns out we’ve got a few more tomorrows left.
If you’re looking for me, I’m watching my dog as she sleeps, sighs, and dreams. I’m talking to her about bodies of water, and long walks, and tomorrow.
posted by Lisa on 8:11 AM link |
World of Pure Imagination
I seek a certain place—not so much imaginary as imagination itself.
Days on which I write, I hope to sidle in unseen, as a backwards glance in a reflective window reveals a movement, a stream of sunlight—a glimpse of memory. Just waking up, I hope not to be startled from it, tenuously awake, more tethered to the world of dreams than to the ground yet attempting to function in both.
There are other ways in, if waking from sleep isn’t available: listening to certain pieces of music; singing, dancing; either swimming in, walking near, or staring at bodies of salt water; ridgetop walks; particular filmed images, reading poetry out loud, stimulating conversation. Other times I catch a glimpse of the doorway in a sheet blowing in the wind and let go, hoping to enter.
As Willy Wonka sings, "If you want to view paradise, Simply look around and view it, Anything you want just do it, Wanna change the world? There's nothing to it. There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you'll be free if you truly wish to be.”
I think of myself as practicing, not so much writing, but accessing the imagination.
Thoughts of pressing deadlines, the mundane, such as bills that need paying,and nagging thoughts of friendships I’ve not tended to—these things will block the doorway. Once in the place, they can come in and grab me by the wrist, yanking me back into the world of particulars.
It’s a tricky place to stay, like thinking a thought and not thinking it at the same time. Like a puff of smoke. Spider webs on the breeze: ethereal and real at once. I’ve deployed a device, part of my complex strategy to maintain this state into my waking morning. On days that I wake to an alarm clock, I’ve got one that wakes me to a soft heartbeat, growing louder slowly. The gentle rhythym holds my dreams in place as I come up from sleep, allowing me to keep a foot in both worlds.
This post was inspired by the bi-weekly topic Imagination and Place, and is part of a group posting at Ecotone: Writing About Place
posted by Lisa on 10:49 AM link |
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