Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I saw today that NASA has published new Hubble Telescope images--galaxies just beyond our own, star systems billions of light years away, gas masses in space. One of those galaxies is supposedly sucking up our own. In a few billion years, it will have eaten ours alive, in a kind of cosmic cannibalism. The universe dazzles and disorients . . .

I am working on a series of poems that have to do with a journey through the desert between Phoenix and Los Angeles. I've called them "highway love poems." But the cosmos also plays a part in these poems--how could constellations and aliens not show up, considering the geography of sitings and the presence of dark sky at some points in the desert. And love, too . . . My mind keeps wandering back to desert and space and relationship, and my pen keeps going back again and again into those spaces.

I love these poems, unfinished and fragmented as they are at the moment. Why? One reason is because they started by looking at Aaron's photos. They are something we have shared together, some small fragments of our lives, some wondering at the mysterious parts of our existence, some space where what each of us does as separate human beings touches and breathes into the other. They are beautiful and fragile, like human relationships. Emphasis on fragile.

Lately that emphasis has been all too clear to me. I can't speak the fragility out of anything I say or do or experience. Sometimes the web breaks. Sometimes our relationships become painful and we don't know what to do. The only answer I have is just to be still and be present in these moments, when things seem chaotic and uncharted. I look at those photos of the universe and think I am in the presence of so many secrets. My emotions, my body, my experiences are only a tiny glint in the whorls of deep space and time.

Monday, September 7, 2009


As a child, my mother and other family members accused me of being a bit "airheaded." Not unintelligent, but having a tendency to drift and not have my feet on the ground. There is some truth to that. I feel like I have too much "air" going for me and not enough "earth."

But it's more than that. Lately, I've felt like I am in the middle of a huge change with no way of knowing what is going to happen at the end of it. I'm floating along in a tunnel, the air is pushing me forward, and I have no way to put my feet on the ground. Aaron and I watched "The Descent" the other weekend--very disturbing, if you haven't seen it--and in some ways the events of that film remind me of my life at the moment. This group of women go spelunking in what they think is a known cave, only to find out they are in an "unexplored" one. They end up confronting creatures that seem part human but which have evolved or devolved into blind and vampiric creatures of the underground. And apparently others have been there before--and haven't escaped--as these women later discover.

In many shamanic traditions, the underworld is the subconscious mind, where we confront our ghosts and demons and might find ways to heal ourselves. I feel like I am undergoing my own initiation into something I don't quite understand at the moment. I am able to notice sometimes how I am reacting to things, and the person who is reacting and the person who is observing the reaction seem very different.

But I'm also floating along in this "underworld" at times, trying to find a way through it, and quick, even though I know that won't be the case. I've been here before. But the challenges are just a little bit more difficult each time I return. Strange, I'm really drawn lately to "big science": quantum mechanics, astronomy. I've been looking at Hubble telescope images, reading about dark matter, wondering about the possiblity of life elsewhere in the universe. At the same time, I am tethered even more fully to this life, sifting through some dark moments as of late. But it's led to a long series of poems, or a long poem--not sure how to define it yet.

And I hope it helps me to become a better person in the long run. Because at this very moment I feel a little unsure about everything. But that may be where I need to be.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cook Nouveau

I've had some concerns about my health lately, though nothing medically shown, so I've decided to make some changes in my diet. Mainly, eating more veggies and buying fruits, veggies and other foods from more local sources, like farmers markets.

And cooking . . . I used to dread cooking. Probably because I wasn't a very clever cook. One of the stories my mother tells is of me trying to make egg salad with scrambled eggs. It was a running joke for a long time. Years later, I mentioned the story to a writing colleague who also happened to be a very creative and talented amateur chef. His response: he could see an egg salad with scrambled eggs, a new version of the old.

So I am becoming reaquainted and introducing myself anew to cooking. Not baking--for some reason, I don't have any desire to make cookies and breads--but entrees and salads and soups and pastas and whatever else jumps into my head. I didn't realize until lately how creative cooking can be. And soothing and satisfying. Now when I leave work, I don't think about stopping to pick something up for dinner but, rather, what is sitting at home that I can work with to create something homemade. Grilled eggplant with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, for instance . . .

This week I've been mostly successful. My favorite has to be the Greek chicken salad--slivers of Kalamata olives, lemon juice and zest, red onion set it apart from the average joe chicken salad. My first attempt at soup was also a success--lentils in a reused stock with potatoes, carrots, parsley, green beans, onion, and red hot pepper to give it a little kick. Yes, there were things that could be done to improve the taste and texture--more lentils and maybe a little milk to make it creamier--but it worked.

So I am no longer helpless in the kitchen. This has been coming about for years, though--I've become pretty good and making salads and have developed some very basic cooking skills, which have helped me to make this leap. I figure it's something like me becoming an expert thrift store shopper--plenty of practice and an eye (or nose or tongue) for the details. Next step, figuring out how to make that scrambled egg salad . . . .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Buying and Giving Away

Couldn't resist on Saturday. Yet again, the lure of the thrift. Didn't get much, really. A couple of lovely, light sweaters in jewel tones--red and turquoise. Very thin and v-necked with a thread of glitter running through them--must wear a camisole under them because of their gauziness. Then, a pink cotton blouse with beautiful pearl buttons up the front and roses stitched into the fabric. And a slightly sheer short-sleeve top, in a red and black print. I have some other tops somewhat like it and really love them. All in fabulous condition. And 50% off.

I resisted other things quite well, though. The small porcelain Chinese box in an earth shade with a dragon on the lid. The plum cotton top with the draped front. The black lightly quilted jacket cinched a bit at the waist that looked fabulous with my jeans. Oh, and there was a Beatles album, a Jeff Buckley cd which I couldn't remember if I had or not, K.D. Lang--her voice gets me every time. I'm looking for clear glass apothecary jars. May have to break down and buy them new from Marshall's.

The Chandler Goodwill is a nightmare. I don't like going in that one on Saturdays because there are always too many people inside. I am trying to stop going in any of them at all when I don't have money. Which seems to be a lot of the time these days. I had to clean out my closet the other night, get rid of clothes I haven't worn in a year or more. Mostly winter stuff, sweaters and pajamas and sweats. It felt good to clean out my closet, house, and car, though. Also got rid of various and sundry junk items that had been sitting in the trunk for a year.

They say when you need a breath of fresh air, when you need change to happen, to start cleaning and getting rid of stuff in your house. I couldn't agree more. Now, I just have to actually clean the house, too . . . if I could only get out of this physical tiredness rut I've been in. Depression can really take the wind out of you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Finally, some semblance of order in my trailer, after the barrage of holiday gift gathering. I don’t technically celebrate Christmas and yet always end up with too much stuff at the end of the holiday. But I organize and somehow get it all put away.

The only tangible thing I seem to have real trouble organizing is my finances. I think I have made that part of my life all too complicated. Do the math, I tell myself. Or use a calculator. I have let things go too far. Even my thrift spending has gotten out of hand. The next few months I will have to set limits, to pay back loans, to try and right where I have gone wrong. Possibly to start over again.

Tonight, my friend Alexa gives me a belated solstice gift–a cobalt blue candle holder (my favorite color) trimmed with marbled glass beads. Funny, I also chose glass gifts for my friends–multi-colored glass light catchers, pieced together from scrap pieces of glass. I bought these at an artist’s table one Saturday in downtown Mesa. Yellow, red, white, and black, in various shapes and pieces and patterns, collaged together. It’s like we are giving each other pieces of light, something to see by.

I am trying to see better. And listen better. But feel like I often fall short of the mark. Perhaps to err is to see only what is in front of me. Magic suggests there is something other than what I see, no less real, but the tangible reality of which has yet to be established by science. One day it will be. Magic might also be seen as the application of will. It starts with intention then moves into the physical realm.

It’s like those crazy deals people make with themselves every new year–so called "resolutions." I don’t make those anymore. Stopped some years ago. Because what I really want, what I hope to will, can’t be put into place by those often-failed attempts at bartering with the universe at the beginning of January. They rarely move far enough into the physical. It was a disappointment for so long–this is the year I’ll lose weight, write that book, meet the love of my life . . .

Nope, didn’t work. When I started really delving into witchcraft and magic, however, I found more practical ways of manifesting. I haven’t figured out a good weight loss spell as of yet, but intent and a little practical magic sent me back to graduate school, opened romantic doors for me (no, I didn’t do a "love spell" to capture a particular person but I felt ok with manifesting the kind of person I want in my life), has helped me to get money when I need it, and took me to England and Scotland for several weeks. I have been largely successful in my magic making. For this I am grateful.

Still, there are things I can’t see very well at times. My own judgments sometimes get in the way. I’d like to think I know what is best for me, but I am wrong at times. I might get what I ask for, but I don’t provide the universe with enough details. Like asking for money to go to England and Scotland, but not thinking to ask for enough to sustain me while I was there. Blindsided with a large phone bill in London, I was left with very little to sustain the rest of my trip. Ended up having to pay back my friend Becky for some borrowed money.

Or asking for love to open me and teach me, but not realizing how complicated relationships can be. They require attention and compromise. They require you to keep your eyes and ears open. To see beyond any seeing you have ever done, listen with true atteniton. They are constant works of magic in the making. Anyone who thinks otherwise is setting herself up for a knock on the head with the cauldron.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Inventory, Day 3: Bathroom

pair of pink doves, gold flecks in the skin, eyes painted askew, wing tips broken, bought anyway, just a feeling they gave, different, like looking at battered animals, rescued from the shelves of a thrift store

cut glass apothecary jar, from the same shelves, filled with Q-tips and cotton balls, sits on the back of the sink, out of place, lonely, stars in the lid, face of the sky, art of becoming galactic, meteoric, la noche

mirrored tray, bottled essential oils, rose, vanilla, jasmine, ylang ylang, three sprays, fills the room, smell of winter, ice skins floating on a pond, bobbing up and down, glass ball on fisherman’s net, fire and ice

lotus floating on a heart, ohm, sound of the universe, not ticking life away on a wall, next to a door, in the tub, dead sea salts, emptied into the coolness of the room, a blue heart, what does it mean, not sad

Kuan Yin, dressed in white, finger broken off, beads in her hair, around her neck, at her ankles, blocks the cabinet door, see imperfect nature, everything fractured finds its way back into the broken world

window, fogged over, skimmed with residue of shampoo and soap scum, can’t see out, can’t see in, what’s the use in such a thing, except a little light, during the day, at night a dark hole in the wall

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snuffed Out

Cities, from the air, are maps of silver and gold and copper, with an occasional sequence of red or blue or green. Strings and chains and rectangles and circles of glass. At any moment, these could be snuffed out. Oahu had that experience recently, losing its power. I wonder what that must look like from the air, for a city to suddenly go dark. To suddenly witness night closing in on a place.

My father, late in the evening, forgets to walk around his house and turn on lights. I am comforted by this, that I can watch the night approaching without having to switch on a lamp. Something primitive still lingers in this experience. Rather than snuffing out, it is a letting go, a relaxing into the arms of dark skies and crickets among the trees.

The sun slips to the level of the woods – long, red, yellow, black shadows, like a red-winged blackbird. An unidentified bird squawks loudly down by the pond. Fish break the surface. I don’t know the names of birds around here any more. Have been gone too long from Virginia.

In my family, not many generations have passed since electricity was first put into homes. I still have cousins who live in the Appalachians – raising chickens, pigs, and cows for their own use. My grandmother said they recently had a telephone installed for the first time. They haven’t had electricity for very long, either. I wonder what they would think about cell phones . . .

My grandmother is collecting glass, perhaps because she likes beautiful things, too. So many colors in her cabinets, mostly vases. I have given her a couple of pieces – Chinese medicine bottles from San Francisco, painted with flowers and birds and a Chinese sage. These pieces will be given away when she dies, much as her sister’s collection of glass and porcelain and pottery shoes have spread around the family.

This Christmas, we get to choose one of Francis’s shoes as a keepsake. The Fenton glass pieces, which I remember from when I was a child, have not been found yet. A little disappointed, but I choose a porcelain boot with flowers on the tongue. Laugh – a K-mart tag still intact on the bottom. Sentimental value only. K-mart is going out of business, at least in Phoenix, as are so many other stores this year. Strange what marks time.

The Sky Mall catalogue contains a selection of ornaments for a bride. Apparently, according to a German folk tradition, a newlywed woman should have twelve different ornaments to hang on her tree at Christmas. Each symbolizes some aspect she should have or cultivate in her new home. A rose, a fish, a basket of fruit, an angel, Santa Claus, a house . . . blown glass, an art in Germany.

My father and I went into several antique and gift shops in Farmville. Blown glass everywhere. In one of the gift shops, was particularly impressed with their collection. Glass tools–hammers, saws, screwdrivers. Glass witches riding broomsticks and stirring cauldrons. A menagerie of birds – robins, bluebirds, cardinals, doves. Didn’t have space to take any of these home. Wanted to buy all of the birds and make a tree of them.

I have in my collection of ornaments some vintage glass balls, from when my grandmother first married, and a number of other glass pieces collected over the years – icicle, bell with angel inside, heart with roses on its face, hummingbird . . . haven’t pulled them out and hung them in several years, but have decided to get an ornament tree and display them year round, rather than just at Christmas.

Over the years, my cats and other circumstances have crushed or broken ornaments occasionally. It is the risk one takes with having these fragile things around. Disappointing . . . sometimes saddening when there is a memory connected to a thing.

One of my glass balls disappeared a few years ago, knocked to the floor and broken by a rogue paw. A multi-colored star painted on its surface, each point a different color. I still miss it, the light it projected on a tree. It connects me to a friend of mine, who lives several states away. A gift from her.

My mother is more afraid than she will admit this Christmas. She is giving away her possessions as gifts and making her will. She hands me a copy but tells me not to look at it until she dies. She gives me a tree of life pendant from Peru. Later, she confesses that all the women she worked with years ago have had cancer in some form or are dying of it now. One woman had breast cancer but has survived. Another has cancer in her brain and will not live.

They all worked in a medical supply unit at a hospital together. She wonders if they have been exposed to some chemical or metal and it is only a matter of time . . . she will be going to have a colonoscopy this coming week. Blood in her stools. Hemorrhoids? Cancer? Will soon know the answer.

Vulnerability. A child standing on the side of a narrow country road. He is hunting with his father or some other family member. The man remains in the truck, but the child stands there leaning the palm of his right hand on the barrels of two shotguns. Why is the adult allowing the child to do this? If the safety on the guns is tripped by accident, his head and arm will be blown off. Snuffed out in a matter of seconds.

Along these back roads, timber companies have come in and stripped hardwoods from people’s properties. Landowners sell trees for cash. Snuffing out what little woods are left. Huge gaping wounds in the middle of wooded lots. The timber companies don’t bother to clean up their messes. They take the wood and leave. Supposedly, they must plant pine seedlings to reinvest in the land, but what about the hardwoods? Lots of stumps and trashed brush, a pocked landscape.

The deer have nowhere to go when this happens, so hunters, even though they know it is illegal, stand on roadsides and roust deer out into the open, so they can take pot shots. My father had to chase a few of them off his land. Once a group of them went after a herd of sixteen does on my father’s property. He stopped the hunters by walking downhill toward them with a gun in his hand.

He says they are crazy. Says they will do anything to shoot a deer. A limit of two per season, but most of them go over that, he thinks. Says he couldn’t ever shoot an animal like they do. But he has a gun . . . what does he plan on doing with it?

My father also hates the timber trucks, rumbling up and down these roads at breakneck speeds; one of them hit his border collie Teddy. The dog disappeared for several days; finally showed back up at the house, limping. His back legs will never be the same, but he still runs. Bows his head when he comes up to you and lets you pet him on the head and ears. Graceful, despite what happened. And he still stands at the fence trying to herd the horses. It’s in the blood of these animals, a fierce will to survive and to do what they were born to do.

I sit in the almost dark and listen to cows mooing in the field. They do not approach the fence when I stand their taking pictures of them on my cell phone. A big chocolate animal; the others are spotted brown and white.

Intelligent. Will fight if they need to, but right now just cautious. Animals, like humans, have an emotional life. I wonder if they fear death in the way humans do. Or do they not think about it, like that child who both desires to kill and is one step away from death himself? Or do they look it in the eye and welcome it and say yes, it is time?