The mystery black birds appear in the guayaba tree in the late afternoon. They perch and poke for seeds, awkward at the three tube feeders I’ve hung for my house finch. I watch through the open louvers in the back room. I thought they sounded familiar when I heard them in the morning on the telephone pole, but now I have a front row seat. They are red-winged blackbirds! I am in love with them, the females especially, so subtle and intricate—light, bright brushstrokes of paint across their blackness. Watching them in all their quiet glory takes me back to when I lived in Cotati, and I would walk out behind one of the old Hewlett Packard campuses at the end of the day. (It was a walk my friend Meri introduced me to.) Red-winged blackbirds perched on every bush and thrust of stem in an open field. I stood on the edge of the road and listened to the magic, lilting songs, waves of music echoing around me in the late dusk.
Today I spend the day with Sylvia Boorstein, and her guests, from afar, livestreamed from Spirit Rock. Beforehand, I debate the all-day commitment on this day, but being in her presence even virtually and getting to listen to her wonderful stories feels like such a reassuring way to begin the year. After, I feel vulnerable. I am achey and tender and sad. I am all opened up. I feel a kind of longing, I think. Longing to be able to be part of something like this always? Partaking in her big warm love and acceptance? More connected to people like this, this deep kindheartedness? Always with Sylvia my old voices arise, want to lament I didn’t find her years ago when I could have worked with her for decades. Maybe, though, another voice says, you wouldn’t have felt this way about her then. Maybe you wouldn’t have been ready, or maybe she needed time to grow into who she is today. In the end, I settle back into gratitude for the day, for the gift of her. But in me, too, is secret hope to get to spend more time with her, maybe even years of it.
Today I find my way back toward normalcy. I mix two big bags of bird seed, fill the feeders, replenish the hummingbird nectar. I make yesterday’s handwritten revisions to my memoir in the word document, remove pieces that don’t sing, clearing deadwood. Now I am fresh from the shower, renewed, the sliding glass door wide open, my white-crowned sparrows still rustling in the dried blossoms beneath the bougainvillea. The solar Christmas lights have come on, and my two strings of crystals and my magic ring, washed in honeysuckle soap, are hanging in the courtyard, awaiting the moon’s blessings on this new year’s eve. I have miso stock simmering, sending the scent of ginger into the air, and broccoli and cauliflower ready to roast. I submitted my manuscript to the Many Voices Project an hour ago. I have the night ahead of me, good food, a favorite book. Tonight I feel more like myself, quiet inside, even sweetness this morning when I wondered how I might make my way now back to joy. It comes to me I could feel lonely, but I like being here alone, awake to each moment, feeling the year come to a close. I can hear Ted banging pots in the kitchen next door and Rae and Kirk laughing from his trailer on the other side, car sounds one street over, people heading out to celebrate, the noises all muted and homey. I hold still, relishing the sounds of the sparrows, the colored lights in the late dusk, the crickets chirping, the caw of a raven in the distance. Quiet, peaceful, easy. Right.
Friday Feb. 14th (and the 15th and 16th?)
Okay, this is kind of goofy. I want to offer a writing day on February 14th (and maybe the 15th and the 16th, too). But I’m not sure where it might be or if it might need to just be online.
I told you it was a bit goofy. But after our extraordinary experience at the Joshua Tree retreat in November, I had a dream telling me to do the next one on Valentine’s Day. I let myself get swept up in life, and I didn’t pursue this, but I still want to honor the dream even if it’s much belated.
So. Please save the date(s) if you’d like to do a nice long chunk of writing together (true stories, creative nonfiction prompts, lovely camaraderie, laughter).
Stay tuned. I will let you know if I find a space for us, or if this will be something we can do online together. Oh, and maybe let me know if you are interested. Not sure what we might be able to pull together at such short notice, but you never know. And it’s a holiday weekend, too!
Sending good wishes to each of you for this and for 2020!
First, in December there is a three-week stretch where all I can do is what must be done. (It feels like six months.) Even firm commitments, looked forward to, fall away beside the path, grieved for, lost in the tangled weeds. Then there are eight days of no work when I withdraw, retreat to my warm bed on cold winter days. I let myself reread my old favorite books, dear companions. I let myself write, cry a little as fear seeps out of me, let my mind wander, allow ahas to surface. Then big work resumes, both colleges, warmer days, bird sounds through the open windows. I begin to scribble blog posts in my notebook, or things I hope might be blog posts. (I am now terribly behind.) I am not quite back in high gear yet, but I am working and writing. And I begin to dream about truly returning here, to see if little by little I might be able to get current with you, my dear readers. Always dear. Always.
Kat sends me home from the retreat with a jar of her divine vegan gravy. I make stuffing. Mushrooms, garlic, Asian pear, walnuts, my odd pancakes for the bread. For a moment I flash on being selfish, not sharing. I shake my head. I feel good tending to myself with care.
[27 of 30 in November, re-posted from today’s tweet @tryingmywings]
Pink glow above the rim of my dark mountain, sparrows still calling in the late dusk. Cozy at home, I let the day be tender. Shame arises in the wake of the retreat. My sin of interrupting looms large. But this healing is newly balanced, too, by my awe and my delight.
[25 of 30 in November, re-posted from today’s tweet @tryingmywings]