May 2014 Be Sweet (13)


I came close to not writing a piece for my Christmas cards this year, to just sending them out with my love. But writing an annual greeting reminds me of the new year or birthdays, a chance to step back, to scan the year before, the hawk gliding on the thermals, the big picture spread below her. I want to not be too lazy to look. And I want very much to return to being a writer, to immerse myself in writing long enough for it to seep out my pores, thoughts rising through my days, steam drifting up from wet pavement after a summer rain.

On February 2nd I agreed to buy our new old trailer home. After I said the words on the phone, I fell over, banged my knee hard on the tile floor of our old apartment. I was gone already, I think. But a voice had whispered to me to walk by that day in the rain when I saw the for sale sign, and the trailer sat on that stretch of road I’d studied for years, easing myself closer and closer to making the leap to living in a tin can. Then the fence, the A/C fiascos left me gun shy at this home ownership stuff, rocked my faith in myself, disturbed my demons. Summer was brutal, and they began building across that stretch of road. The cottontails and roadrunners and I were displaced, desperate. I made false starts again and again. There were times I didn’t know if I’d ever make it all the way back.

But I did. Thanks to the kindness of the gods, I scrabbled all the way back to joy. My writing is the last to return. I want that richness, that extra layer woven through my days and nights. So today I make another effort in that direction. I sit in our courtyard, notebook propped against my knees. In the lull from the construction site, I hear birds. I count six house finch, two goldfinch and one hummingbird perched on the bare branches of my neighbor’s tree. Yesterday at dusk the moon was rising. The solar Christmas lights spread glowing reds and greens and blues along the fence. And birds have begun to sit in our palo verde. Today I bought a headband with aqua feathers to wear to the new year’s eve party here in the park. I plan to dance, to laugh, to sing. I look at the leafless branches of the neighbor’s tree again, and now there’s one lone mourning dove, his small form still against the late afternoon sky. I watch him for a long time. My cats are both napping nearby. I feel grateful and quiet and full.

I hope this finds you equally at home—in your skin, your life, your year. May 2014 be sweet and gentle and glad in its unfolding.

After Chavasana (12)

Branches, sky and clouds

Today was cloudy. I began doing my qi gong in a long sleeved shirt and a heavy vest that I had to take off halfway through. By the time I start my yoga, I am wearing my light T-shirt with the hummingbirds on the front because the sun’s come out. I turn my back to it to do my sun salutations. After chavasana, I lie on my back on my yoga mat. Almost all the clouds are gone, and the sky is a deeper blue than I remember seeing in ages. The only clouds left are in the middle of my sky, backdrop for our palo verde. I lie in the courtyard longer than I mean to, watch the green branches against the white clouds, relish the blue of the sky. White crowned sparrows flit from pavement to tree to pavement again. Sable pounces toward a mourning dove on the ground who gets away. The breeze comes, and the goldfinch sway on the palo verde’s green tips. I hear the chimes. I know I need to get up, but I keep lying here. I hug my knees to my chest, wiggle my bare toes, marvel at December in Palm Springs.

My Palo Verde (11)

picture of palo verde with green umbrella

When they planted my palo verde before we moved into our new home, I prayed to know her name if she had one. Days later when I was weeding near her base I saw her name in my head. It was typed on thick white paper with pink and blue fibers woven through it. The lines were single-spaced, like part of a letter written on an old manual typewriter. Serena. Really? Serena? It wasn’t something I would have chosen. Then I heard it in my head, spoken with a Spanish accent, the long letter “A” sounds, the furred, rolled “R.” I liked it. She was in full bloom when they brought her, and she grew fast. The first fierce wind we had knocked her over, and I became hysterical. I’d never had my own tree planted in the ground before, only Christmas trees who lived in pots. Gus came and righted her, tied her up, but he said she was still too top-heavy. After, I bought a saw. I’ve been removing her limbs little by little, feeling like I’m cutting off my own arms, terror alive in me each time. The last time I had the wrong angle on the cut, had to go in again from the side, made a big gouge in her main trunk I haven’t forgiven myself for. I pray she’ll be okay, that her roots will grow deep and wide now, her remaining limbs thick and strong. I can see her tall and broad, our shelter from the summer afternoon, her branches filled with birds sitting quiet in the early evening. The first morning we lived here, a little yellow bird came to sit in her, tasting her tiny leaves (or maybe eating bugs I couldn’t see). “Ah,” I said. “You are nibbling on my companion.” It felt like a good omen, that visit. Yesterday I looked up and there were more than half a dozen goldfinch perched in her, their little calls and yellow bellies music on a winter day. My palo verde. My Serena. May you be blessed for long, luxurious decades. May you never lack for water, for company, for blue sky, for love.

Are They Real? (10)

Flowers and metal watering can

I planted violas and marigolds beside my fence along the road. I say violas because that’s what it said on their six packs. I thought they were miniature pansies when I bought them. Planting is my favorite part, when the earth is clean and moist, the flower starts fresh and full of promise, full of hope. In those first days, I am drawn back again and again to feast my fill of them. On Thursday I was in my courtyard taking pictures of the evening sky, when I heard the jingle of a dog collar. People like to walk their dogs along our little road, in the habit, I think, from when the open field still lived on the other side of it. I heard a man’s voice ask if those were new flowers, a woman say something in reply. I stood still then, camera in hand, listening. There was a pause as they walked by, then the man’s voice again. “Are they real?” he asked. I didn’t know whether to be amused or offended. The woman who lived here before me had fake red tulips hanging off the front of the trailer. I shook my head, went back to capturing the changing clouds. The next morning, watering can in hand, I decide to take his question as a compliment. He must have wondered if they were real because their colors are so vivid, because they look so perfect, I tell myself. I pour water on them and shake my head again, amused now by both of us.