About Riba

I'm a writer and a teacher, though I usually say it in reverse. I hope to find more of a balance between the two. ;-)

Unlonely (10)

I sit when I can in the back corner of the yard beneath the lime green umbrella where I can see the ridge behind us. In these squirreled away minutes I savor my yerba maté and commune with these foothills. I hunt for signs of life, hope for red-tailed hawks or ravens, the ridge my much-loved companion. She came to me in my compassion class when we were asked to call up a comfort image. The ridge came, and my beloved San Jacintos came, too, with their many layers of ridges, old, old friends now. Mountains are in my blood, though I didn’t understand this before today, these foothills from childhood, my Girl Scout mountains, my Ajijic mountains, my Palm Springs mountains. The steady nature of them all, an ancient abiding, wise, deep beings every one. When I lived in Mexico I translated one of my favorite rounds into Spanish, not word for word but the feeling of the song. I would sing it from the third-floor roost of my blue house in Todos Santos at the end of the day, my long hill darkening before me, running west toward my sliver of sea. “Los cerros que viven aqui,” I sang, “Ellos pasan tiempo conmigo. Doy gracias por los cerros.” The hills that live here, they keep me company. I give thanks for the hills. I sing the song tonight in this late, late dusk, my ridge now a dark but breathing silhouette against the blue purple sky. The west a fading orange, and Venus brilliant just above that swathe of pale green we get in this longitude. New moon evening, one lone cricket starts his song. I wonder if I’ll hear the owls tonight.

Still Points (9)

I am in the center
of very hard things
I feel like I fail
again and again
but the truth is
I am still here
still finding ways
to return to myself
every
single
day
so today I will
stop
and open
and be proud of myself
in this moment
the thirteenth time
today that
I came back.

Respite (8)

These days
I don’t always know
where to go
how to be inside myself
all sharp jagged edges
I dissolve
on the floor of the garage
I keen
into my pillow
I want to put my fist
through the wall
(how do people do that?
the drywall must be very thin?)
but now and then
I find that sweet spot
where I know beyond doubt
how lucky I am
I find my grateful heart
in a quiet moment
in the midst of it all
and I cry tears
that don’t hurt.

Not a Red Slipper in Sight (7)

I’ve just had three days with hectic-ness, ongoing exhaustion, plenty of anger. I’ve been so tired I’ve let dirty dishes sit in the sink, dragged my mother to El Pollo Loco, read a new fantasy novel by Naomi Novik (she of the dragon stories). There has been genuine laughter and odd, goofy, hunched up prancing through the house, a weird grin on my face. Decades ago as an undergraduate at Cal I was daydreaming on the grass when a young man stopped. “You look like you have all the answers,” he said. I laughed. “No,” I said, “but I have a lot of questions.” I remember the unexpected, happy intimacy of the exchange, and how underneath the memory I can point to that day as the day I first understood letting go was the secret to everything in life. For months now I have refused to surrender, have resisted every damn inch of what is. These past two weeks on top of everything that’s been going on, both the next door neighbors and the people across the street have been breaking up cement with a jackhammer, hour after hour after day. If I am not being asked to surrender, I don’t know anything. Maybe my default lethargy is a good sign? We’re not in Kansas anymore. Be easier with it, my dear one, if you can.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (6)

My body’s still thrumming from the vibration of driving, from the intensity of southern California freeways. I can hear the dishwasher in the kitchen, the crickets through the open sliding glass door. My mind is still sorting through the images of my home, ravaged by desert rats, kin to the ones I relocated with such tender care eight months ago and more. It’s like sifting through photos loose in a box, like flash cards. I can still smell their urine. My friend Maureen saved me from becoming a puddle on the floor, working her butt off, making big dents for me in the chaos. After she left I just kept going. Nothing is clean there now but the toilet and the cutting board in the kitchen. The top of the refrigerator is the only surface the rats did not mar. But the floor’s been swept, the bird feeders filled. I did not fully land much, though, and that is disappointing. I got to watch Maureen just feet away from me, marvel at her three-dimensionality outside of Zoom. But I wasn’t completely present. I remember a mourning dove on the roof of the trailer looking down into the courtyard with longing, getting up to scatter some seeds for him. A hummingbird came to hover behind me, but I was too wrapped up in whatever I was going to turn to greet him, a heartache now and a longing of my own. At one point in the late morning when I am sweeping I catch a sense of their rat glee, chasing each other around, leaping from couch to bookshelf, wild animals at Disneyland closed for the pandemic. “I love them, too,” I say to Maureen. “I know,” she says. And we turn back to our sweeping while the day grows hot around us.

Even Though (5)

I see a black-headed
grossbeak
on the bird feeder
in the morning
greet a star
(my star?)
in the late dusk
and in between
there is
a worn wooden bench
in the late afternoon sun
away
from all the people
so I can take my mask off
to drink my yerba maté
watch the jack rabbit
nibbling grass
hear the raven’s
wingbeats
shake my head
over how much I continue
to resist my life
right now and
earth thrums
through my feet
touches my exhaustion
and pools in a
still
quiet place.

Bejeweled (4)

I am still not used to days of going and going, still finding my way in this, wanting to touch down more, palms to the earth. But there are pockets in most days, places where I land, even if only for moments. Some just rise up in me, like sitting in the car in Montrose drinking my yerba maté the other day when I felt so incredibly lucky. Some pockets meander over, like the hawk that swooped in and sat on the electric pole when Asterik and I were talking in the street. Sometimes I reach for these places, like stopping with my tea, sitting in the back yard taking in the ridge, the mockingbird singing in the leafed out liquid amber, the California towhee on the wet ground eating millet. Taking in whoever shows up. And the moment late at night when I turn off the last light before going to my room. I look through the living room to the solar Christmas lights outside on the succulent, the corner of the San Fernando Valley lit up in the distance, cars moving in slow motion on the freeway. I stand still in the kitchen doorway, this silent evidence of life happening out in the world, and the lush echoes of it alive in the dark quiet of the house, memory of the day just lived, and holding tomorrow.