Sunday, May 29, 2016
Saturday, May 28, 2016
A mysterious song that has stayed with me for 38 years, especially the lines highlighted in green. The lyrics frequently come to me when I wake up in distress. I hear them sung out of context with the rest of the song, in fragments, and they bring with them something unerring and sustaining.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Bob Dylan is 75 years old today. Happy Birthday, Bob! Thank you!
ADDENDUM: Just for fun, here are some songs collected by Bob about "Friends and Neighbors":
Monday, May 23, 2016
A cousin of mine brought this to my attention.
Just this morning I re-read the liner notes to Blood on the Tracks after a friend mentioned that he had just re-read them. I remember standing in a record store in Bellingham in January 1975 reading those liner notes and weeping and then going home to listen for the first of many many times. That was over 40 years ago.
The painting from 1990 above is titled "63rd Month / Talking 43-Hour Day With Roots Gathered From Coincidence."
This morning I woke up feeling something I couldn't define. When I focused on the feeling, not the words about the feeling, my body sensations were minimal but murky and unpleasant nonetheless. If pressed for a single word that matched the feeling, I could only come up with "flat." If asked for the color of the feeling, it would be a sickly tan. Suddenly I heard Janis Joplin singing, "Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waiting for a train, feeling just as faded as my jeans ..."
With that, the feeling shifted because I could hear a human voice singing accompanied by musical instruments. The first time I heard that song was the morning my Richard arrived home from Vietnam. We were riding in my 1965 Volkswagen, on our way out to the coast to surprise Richard's family, who didn't yet know that he was home.
Then I found this.
Don't know what else I want to say. Don't know where I am going with this. No easy answers. Lots of questions. Wait. I know what I want to say.
We can refuse to live in fear. We can know that we are not alone. Any loving action, no matter how small, counts.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Friday, May 13, 2016
On my birthday last year, October 1, a friend left a card and a container of blooming red and yellow tulips at my front door. When the tulips had finished blooming, I put the bulbs in a larger pot. When tulip season, as I know it, came and went, I wondered why the bulbs hadn't come up. Turns out they are late bloomers, blooming this year just after Mother's Day. Now I'm curious about the out of focus stalk of volunteer flowers in the foreground of the first photo. Any day now they will open, too.
Along with my Shasta Daisies and Sweet William:
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Coast Salish lands
Make sure to watch the video at 2 of 10 in the photo section of the article.
On Mother's Day, an old friend who is a year older than I am and is being treated for breast cancer suggested that we take an hour's drive to the beach just beyond the Deception Pass bridge. More than 40 years ago, I had walked on the beach in the first photo but until Mother's Day this year, I had no knowledge that there was a beach with waves just around the point. The Deception Pass State Park West Beach looks out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and out to the Pacific Ocean and then way way out across that vast ocean to Asia.
For years I have had a recurring dream that there is a beach with waves just down the road from Bellingham. It is an exhilarating dream, filled with hope and promise and joy. In the dream, I always ask myself how I could not have known that the open ocean was so close by. Waking up from that dream was always bittersweet, and I would find myself yearning to return to my birthplace on the western side of California, where the open ocean is always so near.
A dream come true on Mother's Day. There is a window to the open ocean, and that window is only an hour's drive from Bellingham.
Sweet that the land and sky and waters of the Coast Salish people are no longer threatened by the presence of coal port.
Sweet that the gift of good news came so close to Mother's Day.
The mother of us all. Mother Earth.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
My mother and I had a difficult relationship while she was alive, although today I am remembering the events surrounding Mother's Day in 1987. I had traveled from Bellingham, Washington, to the bluffs of the Pacific Ocean in Gualala, California, where my parents lived. When I arrived, my parents suggested that we all go out to a restaurant for a champagne breakfast. At the time, I didn't know that I was an alcoholic. Because of the events that followed my last drink, a glass of champagne, in May of 1987, I eventually came to understand that I am an alcoholic. On my 21st birthday, in 1970, my mother bought a bottle of champagne and said, "Okay, now you are old enough to drink. Let's go down to the basement and have a glass of champagne."
Once alcohol enters my system, I experience what has been identified as the "phenomenon of craving," the defining element of a real alcoholic. It is not a pleasurable mellow feeling. It is as if a bottomless thirst for alcohol is the only thing that exists. I had experienced that for quite some time when I drank alcohol, probably from my earliest experience with alcohol, but my solution to that was to "be careful." I had no idea that I was an alcoholic. I attempted to control my drinking. However, if one is an alcoholic, control is impossible. Impossible because of a craving that tells me that it must be satisfied or I will die.
The simple solution for me has been not to drink at all. I have not experienced that terrible all-consuming craving since 1987.
Let us just say that I didn't stay in Gualala to be with my mother on Mother's Day. I was off and running with a craving that took 3 weeks to quiet down. During that time, I felt suicidal. For some life-saving reason, I tried to address that craving and suicidal depression by eating massive amounts of sugar. However, something did give me the presence of mind to go to a florist and arrange for flowers to be delivered to my mother a few days later on Mother's Day. My mother was ecstatic upon receiving the flowers. I felt a twinge of guilt and remorse when I saw the photo she sent a few weeks later of her, radiant, with the gift of flowers. I felt I didn't deserve to be loved because I was so angry at her. In the years since 1987, that has changed.
We all deserve to be loved and we can be angry with those we love as long as we need to be.
I was so angry at my mother that I never wanted to have children because I couldn't bear the thought of a child being that angry at me. I was afraid of being like my mother. I wonder if that fear and anger kept me from ever getting pregnant. Who knows?
A few nights ago I dreamed that my mother prepared a gift for me that came in the form of a generous harvest of colorful winter squashes and pumpkins, arranged like a farmer's market display one might see in October, the month of my birth in 1949.
Below is a photo of my mother, Josephine, at Anchor Bay, California, a few miles north of Gualala. The photo was taken by my father. The photo at the top of the blog is of my mother as a single woman in the 1940s, passionate about horses. One of the sacrifices she made in marrying my father and having children was that she rarely rode a horse ever again. I remember her saying in the last years of her life that she would like to ride a horse one more time. However, she had an ankle injury, sustained while riding a horse, that prevented her from doing that in the way she had a young woman.
Reconciliation after death is possible. How? I don't know, but I am experiencing it again today on Mother's Day. Maybe my mother was an alcoholic, too. Who knows?
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Chuang Tau: "Bright Dazzlement asked Nonexistence, 'Sir, do you exist or do you not exist?' Unable to obtain any answer, Bright Dazzlement stared intently at the other's face and form -- all was vacuity and blankness. He stared all day but could see nothing, listened but could hear no sound, stretched out his hand but grasped nothing. 'Perfect!' exclaimed Bright Dazzlement. "Who can reach such perfection? I can conceive of the existence of nonexistence, but not of the nonexistence of nonexistence. Yet this man has reached the stage of nonexistence of nonexistence. How could I ever reach such perfection?" (Chapter 22, "Knowledge Wandered North"
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Journeys bring power and love
back into you. If you
can't go somewhere,
move in the passageways of the self.
They are like shafts of light,
always changing, and you change
when you explore them.
(Djalal Ad-Din Rumi)
Last Sunday, I drove nearly the entire length of the state of Washington to meet with a friend from childhood and her husband of at least 40 years (whom I had not met before) and their shy sweet Bernese Mountain Dog. In order to adopt a puppy, they had driven up from their home in a small community which is located high in the mountains of southeastern California. We met in Carson, Washington, a tiny town located on the Columbia River gorge.
My old friend and I met when we were 12 or 13 years old. We used to walk to junior high school together. In high school, we took long walks from our homes in suburban Redwood City, California, into the beautiful grassy hills to the east of Redwood City. We walked there in the days before Highway 280 cut through those rolling hills, before the hills were filled to the brim with houses, while the Vietnam War was still raging. We were not part of the "in crowd." We were both odd and eccentric and enjoyed each other's company. My family went to church. Her family didn't. I remember the time she brought me to a Buddhist festival in Palo Alto. We belonged to a small loosely connected group of young women who lived within walking distance of each other and went to the same high school. Below is a photo of three of us. If my memory serves me well, the photo was probably taken at the 16th birthday gathering for my old friend. That would have been in 1965. We are all wearing "Beatle" hats. Her father was a psychiatrist. Their home was filled with books.
Here are the senior yearbook photos of my friend and me. Neither of us enjoy being in front of a camera:
My parents chose that photo of me because they paid for the photos. I'd love to see the rest of photos and see what was not chosen by them.
After we graduated from high school in 1967, one of the things my friend did was become a surfer, and she spent weekends surfing in Santa Cruz. Another thing she did was go to Stanford University, following the tradition of both of her parents. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in English Literature, she went to law school and had a long career as a lawyer. Her husband was a conscientious objector and, as a result of his alternative service in a library which had early computers, he had a long career in the field of computers.
In 1967, I left Redwood City to attend the University of California at Irvine, studying Art and English Literature. My friend and I kept in touch. She visited Irvine. I visited her at Stanford. It was the time of protests against the Vietnam War. The man she loved achieved conscientious objector status. The man I loved was drafted in April of 1969. He was a high school dropout and a surfer. We considered going to Canada. He met with draft counselors in Oakland on the day before he went to Vietnam but felt sure that he would not be granted conscientious objector status. He did not want to go to prison (although he ended up in prison years later for drug and alcohol-related offenses). He did not want to go to Canada. He made the fateful decision to go to Vietnam, serving as a helicopter mechanic, returning as a drug-addicted war-haunted man in December of 1970. We lived together for nearly 5 months. We separated in the first weeks of May 1971 after a terrifying episode where the violence of the war that haunted him was directed at me.
In 1973, in an attempt to go on with my life, I left California. My friend and I gradually lost touch with each other, although I did visit her at her law office in the early 1980s, and she contacted me
in the early 1990s.
A year ago, during the December holidays, she wrote a note letting me know that she and her husband had moved from the San Francisco Peninsula to a remote place in the Sierras.
That note led to our respective journeys to Carson, WA.
What got me started on this post was reading this article about Daniel Berrigan who died yesterday at age 94.
You have to struggle to stay alive and be of use as long as you can.
I've also been listening to George Harrison's final album and wanted to share these thoughts from
Lyrics from "Brainwashed":
The soul does not love. It is love itself.
It does not exist. It is existence itself.
It does not know. It is knowledge itself.
How to Know God, page 130
And then I've also been meaning to share Joni Mitchell singing "God Must Be A Boogie Man."
May Love bless and keep us always.