Tag Archives: Writer’sBlog

Lemon Chiffon

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It was early morning. I wandered out into the front courtyard garden and was greeted by a late-blooming lily of exquisite delicacy. Flower - Lily

 

Like a parachute at dawn, this lily had silently landed – petals spread aghast – in a color impossibly soft.

 

Made of flouncy fabric with ruffled edges, so like a trill of tiny pie shell scallops that I jolted.

 

“Lemon Chiffon,” I thought.

 

Yes. The lemon silk pies my mother baked in the moist summer heat of her cherished kitchen.

Pie - Lemon Meringue

Attributed to BettyCrocker

 

The kitchen designed in tones of mocha icing: big brown blocks of linoleum knitted the floor together in a spray of geometric patterns. Countertops were speckled with confetti inlays of chocolate and bronze-metallic.

 

Why, I wonder, was tidy splatter ever appealing as décor in the 1960s?

 

Was it the mirror of a rebellion brewing in the human heart, or, something simpler: camouflage for crumbs?

 

My mother’s kitchen was, always, well-scrubbed with elbow grease. She had little to hide. Perhaps just a few . . .

 

Stealthy crumbs like pie crust crystals left behind after the rolling pin ironed the dough ball flat and the pewter knife trimmed the jagged ends and the crooked knuckles of my mother’s hands had crimped the 9” diameter of a tenderized tin plate.

 

The hot clammy summer weather soothed her crippled fingers, while its weight caused the pastry ruching to droop.

 

The process always looked futile.

 

Until she poured molten lemon custard from a stainless steel double boiler into the slumping, buttery pie shell.

 

And slide the tarnished pan onto the oven’s middle rack, baking it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

Tangy Lemon Chiffon Pie Photo by Taste of Home

Although this routine raised the already sweltering heat of the kitchen, she produced an animated, flaky-crusted, glossy-skinned meringue that floated cloud-like atop a lemon silk pie.

 

Impossibly soft in color.

 

Tartly refreshing in flavor.

 

Bordered with crisp, fluted edges.

 

Just like the perfect lemon chiffon summer.

 

And as the dog days of summer relax their bark and collar their bite, a slice of nostalgia seems so fitting to me.

 

A vision carried from childhood on the breath of God.

 

A snapshot of mother-magic.

 

To boost me forward on my earthwalk.

 

Front Porches

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House - Black & White Illustration

 

My childhood largely revolved around front porches.

Front-porch life was stuffed with neighbors, waves, smiles, spontaneous conversations, sounds of children playing, delivery men, coffee klatsches, repose, daydreams, and mosquitoes.

On the East Coast, screened-in porches were a necessity if one wanted to linger in summer’s hazy, lazy, crazy days of white heat. And that quivery, tar-colored mesh created a new seasonal room overnight.

It was magical.

And I claimed it as my secret space .  .  . sitting on the painted mocha concrete, hidden from the gregarious world by a hedge of boxwood. So perfectly sculpted in geometrical angles. It was my father’s pride, as an engineer, to bring his drafting skills home from the office and share them with our landscaping.

It was technical perfection as it rounded a porch corner, and, tall enough to camouflage a tiny girl playing with her simmering fantasies.

Sitting on my front porch in the summer, I would look out at the world through a mesh veil of tiny squares. Small enough to prevent a mosquito from flying in. Fine enough to allow my child-eyes to see through. To see the details of life.

It was nearly transparent, but screen vision left an imprint on my inner lens.

Life always wore a tulle shroud of imperceptible right angles, square snapshots multiplied exponentially.

Vision was defined by bolts of woven wire. A plain weave. A diaphanous wall through which angels and children watch the world. Not yet knowing that life is really lived outside the graph paper rhythm of mosquito screening.

Insects do bite. And vision gains clarity outside the porch cloak.

But as a child, I felt protected inside the porch with its concrete floor and painted wooden side door. And the screens, where windows once sealed a space, now permitted breezes to visit in diced ripples.

I didn’t know yet that tiny squares were prisons, too.

And I didn’t know why mosquitoes were feared.

I was a child designing hopscotch blueprints and diagonal dreams for the asphalt avenue just outside the porch.

I was unaware of my containment in squares.

And unaware of what a vast breeding ground little square porches and concrete steps can offer to someday stoop-sitting philosophers like me.

Yes. It’s always a surprise to pause, take a moment to look back to childhood, and see how that child birthed the woman I am today.

A woman happy to sit in a rocking chair on any vintage front porch and daydream as cotton-candy clouds scud overhead.

Will I ever truly grow up?

Only time will tell.

Time: that faithful, gossipy scribe that records all life’s events – both visible and invisible.

 

 

Marooned Trucks

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Pickup Truck - New Mexico

One of my favorite personalities of New Mexico is desolation.

 

I tingle at its tableaux, especially pickup trucks parked randomly – slantwise on farm roads overgrown with buffalo grass. Parked on dust ravaged, ghostly earth. Earth that crawls continually toward the gaunt hills of a frontier desert, across a basin bottom that fillets before them, across those boundless flounder-flat plains.

 

This is also a portrait of my heart, I realize – a montage of rusty and hollowing. A still life of my red-clay heart sinking into fields of somber silt. Left behind by the thoughtlessness of time.

What attracts me to inertia is its potential. The power, love and wisdom that can flow through once the current is turned on.

I love the stillness of potential:

The hour just before dawn

The heart just before it loves

The marooned truck just before its engine ignites

The moments after death before the soul transitions

It’s all so scintillating.

Prairie Schooner Cartoonery by jayni

I look at my heart like a crazy cartoon outlined in black and I color it with ridiculously intense colors, trying to resuscitate it. Inflate it. Give it a second birth. Just as I do with marooned trucks that I adopt roadside.

 

Sometimes my heart feels like a sordid red satin curtsying cowgirl at the close of the fair. Waiting for her night shift to end. For night to run away, chased on its heels by dawn’s bloody fingertips.

 

I both fear and crave abandonment. I’m afraid of being totally unloved, yet, I want the world to leave me alone – to cast me into a field of decaying carnival rides. I want the corpse of the barker to kiss me goodnight on the boardwalk at midnight.

I’m a Jersey girl by birth, and, that birthmark can erupt like a wounded tattoo and go bankrupt without warning. I need my hood-love sometimes to tether my bilingual life to a knot in sea-beaten, sun-bleached wood.

 

It’s a moment after twilight and I’m angry.

The anger is born from me not knowing how to operate the instrument panel of my vehicle. The owner’s manual burned when my father died and no one has edited a new reference book.

 

I sense that if I have the keys and can read the dials and shift the gears, that I can save myself. That I can drive my forlorn prairie schooner out of the desert’s talcum powder dust, and into the merger of life’s crossroads.

 

In the quest for meaning, I know that many walks, or drives, through the lion’s den are required.

 

But right now, I’m still angry. Or, I’m angrier still because my dearest friend died last autumn. The last of the true friends.

 

Now I only face faux friends who charge me an exchange rate for likes and favorites and follows and comments and hashtags and stats that exceed the galaxy.

 

I hate bartering for friendship, for love.

 

I hate haggling in the brothel of Wall Street relationships, waiting for the bell to ring; waiting for the net to connect; waiting for inane conversation to begin only to bring shine to the ego of another and shadow to the heart of my vacant vehicle – dying little by little.

 

Yeah. I’ve been on the road all my life . . . out there running just to be on the run.

 

I need a little off-roading time for quiet, detailed contemplation.

 

I need to bury my burdens like a velveteen rabbit and learn to drive my own vehicle of soul back to the original destination from which I departed eons ago.

 

I’m just a traveling soul stripped of her colors. Trying to paint over my anger and reupholster my spirit. And rejoin my tribe.  Pickup Truck - Rusted Trio

 

Diagonal Parking and Thoughts on Angled Life in General

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Small-town America

One of my greatest fascinations in life is: Diagonal Parking.

On first read, this may sound strange, perhaps silly.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it prompted the question: Why? Why would someone even notice this trivial tidbit of life that’s fading in glory?

Well, I’m exploring this idiosyncrasy of mine.

My fascination with diagonal parking is related to my general fascination with things askew

awry

oblique.

Diagonal parking is like arrows.

A slanted entrance. Taut but angled. Straight, but not directly head-on straight, placing one face-to-face with arrivals.

Diagonal is just a softer approach to life.

Emily Dickenson’s “certain slant of light,” is afternoon light: quiet, meditative, less egotistical, gentle, buttery, relaxing, soothing, melancholic in a seductive way. The antithesis of bright, harsh, direct, fluorescent, noontime, peak-of-your-life light.

Slanted is reflective, past the prime-of-life, the achievement/accolade piston-driven ego phase. It’s an easy slip into the slot, and, an easy exit.

Gliding back into the pocket of traffic/life. A gentle, smooth shuttle. Like weaving cloth in rhythmic, repetitive patterns. Steady, non-confrontational, active yet peaceful enough to be simultaneously contemplative.

It’s an evaporation of ego and its cold, hard drive shaft.

No fancy performance artistry of blocking traffic and creating an audience, while one navigates a vehicle into a parallel parking spot as competently and quickly as possible.

No embarrassment if the parking dance has ragged edges…diagonal is not a test of agility. It’s designed to be efficient

sleek

unnoticed

un-noteworthy.

Parallel is a test of skill and it earns commentary from the minds in the waiting vehicles. Main street in american town

I don’t recall diagonal parking in my childhood home towns. Or during college years in New York City. Or post-college in southern France or Los Angeles.

I think that I encountered it on road trips – family summer vacations and my own journeys – but I can’t name the original source.

Somewhere along the path of life it became a symbol of small towns. Of little towns with coffee shops for casual gathering. Of life itself: living without a spotlight, without performance anxiety or ego competition.

A place in which to exhale. To sigh and live slower. A place energetic, productive, dynamic, creative, but, minus the pressures of fame and fortune.

To me, diagonal movement is as slinky as fabric. Like banners shifting in the breeze. Natural. Fluid.

A place in which to slip in and out of as sleekly as a cat.

No fancy underground parking or vertically, spiraling parking garages.

No parallel performances.

No caged lots with meter men and punch button tickets to be placed on the dashboard.

No skinny alleys to maneuver with a line of other cars fighting, as in musical chairs, for the remaining few resting spots.

Parallel means side-by-side. In the race next to the rival, ready to bolt ahead and win the prize.

Whereas in diagonal parking, the curb is the competition. Along with the sidewalk hosting passersby and store fronts.

Your vehicle is aligned with other slanted runners. All, somehow, battling a race against pedestrians and consumers. A race of stillness; of frozen desire.

Parallel is confining – being trapped in a boxcar queue waiting to be hitched.

While diagonal has freedom and independence and spaciousness. It’s aerodynamic and less claustrophobic – a primary fear of mine.

Diagonal feels like coming in for a landing. The sidewalk a tarmac; the stores the terminal.

Parallel feels like passing by; stuck-in-front-of; shady peripheral vision.

In culinary terms, diagonal is the finest slice of meat.

In daily life, it’s the angle I love to live through.

Something like 45 degrees with low density makes me feel crazily comfortable in my skin.

 

All Language is a Longing for Home

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Child - Staring Out of Window at Rain

 

Words are the pillows upon which I cry.

                                                                      ~ journal entry

Sometimes I find inspiration to write from my own stream-of-consciousness script. Little spontaneous lines that I jot down on napkins or newspapers stranded on dirty little café tables. Or fragments that fall out from a journal page as I reread pages of ancient scribble.

 

This line has been lost for several years. Some secret search-and-rescue team recently returned it to me.

 

I ran to the comfort of its private truth. I squeezed it and out poured a cousin-quote.

 

A quote from Rumi: All language is a longing for home.

 

These two simple lines meant a whole lot to me when I committed the greatest, self-advertised failure of my life: my divorce.

 

These lines still mean a whole lot to me.

 

The power of words and the act of writing helped to heal; helped to corral me through a dark rite of passage.

 

When divorce became a reality for me, I crawled into my journal. I claimed my address as east of the spiral binding and north of the blue line.

 

There is a structure and freedom in words that offers stability. They have solid beams and spacious windows.

 

Words take flight like sparrow’s wings. Perch on rooftops – alone and watchful.

 

They watch until they understand. Then take flight again.

 

Dew drops on their wings, in the morning light, are like pearls. Shimmering opaque. Their meanings both solid and liquid.

 

Pearls are born of woundedness – injuries to the oyster, whose immune systems fight by cauterizing irritation with beauty. When the shell is opened, the pearl having healed its landlord’s house, is free to leave.

 

Free to travel the seas and the lands. Free to be pierced with holes and strung between knots to form jewelry. Wrapped around human flesh or hung to dangle from spongy earlobes. Or stitched to gauzy fabrics and floated over lithe bodies waltzing in the night.

 

The curing beads find themselves in many places alien.

 

They are mobile and always glistening with serene smiles because they are complete.

 

They are at peace.

 

They have served as healers. They travel always with their medicine kits wrapped up inside.

 

They are always at home, always content, wherever they go because they carry their homes inside their smooth exoskeletons.

 

Words are like pearls to me. They hold their historical lineages of meaning inside of their compound contraction of characters. They can be written or spoken, translated, misspelled, and mispronounced. Their definitions can be added to or subtracted from. They are flexible and unfettered by the urgency of their users.

 

They are the raw materials for communication.

 

They are neutral in war.

 

They are eternal and patient.

 

They live in dictionaries for authentication, but, they travel endlessly while still at home.

 

Like pearls, words wear their homes.

 

Humans may try to make them homeless, or arcane, but, never do they truly succeed.

 

Words are at rest around us . . . to comfort us, to provide for us, to teach us, to heal us, to furnish the homes of our thoughts: our pain, our joy, our creativity.

 

Words live individually but thrive in the community of language. As we learn to befriend words, we join the clubs of language. We seek to speak ourselves into existence. We speak our homes through word expressions. We write to see our homes constructed on a page.

 

Without language, we might not ever find our homes – the true homes inside ourselves.

 

We are free in words.

 

We are home even when homeless, if we call upon words and trust in their wisdom of generational meaning.

 

Language carries us to the doorstep.

 

We must enter the home and claim it.

 

Writing is a roadmap. Full of: Blue highways. Back roads. Dirt roads. Crooked paths.

 

Writing plots our trail back to the heart home we carry inside and project outward. tree

 

 

Language can be both a ceiling and a floor while the walls are crumbling.

The Counterfeit

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Collage

The midday sun streamed through the sun-porch windows, in a trendy little cafe on the southern edge of Taos, New Mexico.

He stood in line in front of me – as rotund and rosy as the sun itself, his bald head glistening, seemingly a source of its own radiant energy. As he waited for his hummus-avocado salad, and, I for my carrot juice, he turned toward me to make conversation.

“Who is this Susana Martinez and why is she so often pictured on the front page of the newspaper?”

“She’s the governor,” I responded.

“The governor of what state?” he inquired.

“New Mexico. So .  .  . I guess that you don’t live in the area?”

“I moved here last November, but, I don’t pay attention to politics anymore,” he offered in self-defense.

He proceeded to explain to me that he had served for years in military intelligence; that he was trained to program computers and had worked for a high-tech corporation in Michigan; that he had been called by a higher power to move to Taos to build pyramid greenhouses; that his great-grandmother was Cherokee and had marched along the Trail of Tears; that he was preparing to design his beaded medicine shirt and bag; that he was living in a solar house on the edge of town and was about to host a gathering of Cherokee medicine people.

He wore a beaded neckpiece that accentuated the bulk of his Buddha-like body.

It contained claws and fangs and teeth of several unidentifiable animals. Claws - Two Illustrated + Crystal I wanted to stare at it and determine its origins, but, it frightened me.

I looked away, the claws scratching at my memory, and, wondered just how many animals had sacrificed their various powers to enhance his soul.

Orotund of speech

Rotund of body

Obscenely voluptuous of embellishment .  .  .

.  .  . he conjured up images of a counterfeit trinity.

He followed me to the register and continued pontificating about pyramids; their powers; his travels around Egypt, around the world; his spiritual need to learn bead weaving so that he could complete his shirt and bag. Medicine Pouch I told him I was a bead artist.

He bought a loom in Michigan. Would I teach him to weave?

What kind of leather should he buy?

How should the beadwork be applied?

And then, like a grace note in the conversation: “Oh, by the way, I like your gentle spirit.”

Damn. How many times have I heard this comment?

How many times have I seen this pleading loneliness in the eyes grabbing mine?

How many times have I felt this clinging desperation in the handshake? The desire to hold on, the urge to fall to the knees in reverent worship?

He continued his staccato speech, to speak of his ancestors, and I became confused. My ancestors orphaned me at a young age.

I don’t understand this consuming passion to look backward for self-identity. Why this need to beg/steal/borrow from others when we each have all we need within .  .  . right here and now.

I am mystified by the complications when it is really so simple.

We exchanged business cards. I agreed to teach him how to weave beads; he hungrily accepted the offer to engage in the sacred process.

What shall I tell him when he calls?

Will I try to explain that the creator gave us silica, and, through its molten state glass can vitrified and cut and shaped and colored into small seed beads, and, that by stringing them onto lengths of nylon thread, they can be woven:

line by line

bead by bead

onto a nylon warp that resembles the strings of a harp. It’s music really:

one note

one bead

a composition of sound

a composition of images

developing on a basic gridwork .  .  .

it’s tedious

it’s simple

it’s humble work

It requires: Patience, diligence and heartfelt dedication

But:

it’s not magic

it’s not complicated

it’s a gift

that we can receive when we open ourselves up. When we be receivers, we can transmit the gift .  .  .

it’s a simple act

it’s a humble act of surrender

its potential

lies within each of us.

Why look elsewhere?

Why complicate the process?

Why create confusion and mystery and darkness?

Why reverence the objects? The artists?

Why steal when it’s free?

It really is just a simple act of grace, but, how shall I tell him?

Some Days are Written; Some Days are Read

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Old books, inkstand and scrollSome days I write thousands of words and soak in their imaginary meanings like a healing hot tub.

And then some days, I have no desire to write. There is no fulfillment in either the act or the outcome.

Why this inconsistency of creativity?

It’s not writer’s block. There’s no fear.

It’s something like a shift in circadian rhythm.

My creative clock doesn’t tick according to night or day; Hallmark holidays, patriotic holidays or religious sacristy. It doesn’t bow to the lunar cycle or bend to the ocean tides. But if I examine its pattern a little more closely, it does seem to follow the four seasons – the solstices and the equinoxes.

Right now in the Northern Hemisphere – in the middle-of-nowhere desert where I live – it’s summer.

The days are warm with azure skies in the mornings and monsoon thundershowers in the afternoons.

The sky is center stage. It’s theater is spectacularly bold and diverse. Its performances are fully absorbing and keep me curious.

I’m satisfied at a core level, at a visceral, molecular stratum of being.

And I’m going to posit here that I’m not just simply lazy; I’m actually content and at peace.

When I exist in this place of balance, I’m withdrawn from the urge – or the need – to create.

Because I’m complete.

Momentarily.

For three months, perhaps.

My inner world is not having temper tantrums. It’s not needy, desperate, dwelling in its wounds, picking its soul-scabs.

It’s still.

And when stillness rests over my private cosmos, I’m not inclined to write or create in any venue.

Why?

I’ll suggest that creativity is, in part, at least, the heart’s quest for fulfillment; the ego’s cry to preach; the spirit’s hunger to bite the marrow inside the bone.

If I x-ray myself, I see a world of chaos and haze; of potholes and teardrops; of fears and muddy, gravel-less roads of quicksand.

It’s a messy tableau.

It craves order.

So it tries to collect all its stray cats and thrust them outward in an act of creation that’s volcanic. Eruptively beautiful, poignant, provocative, disturbing – an objet d’art that purges some inner pain and places it tangibly in the physical world for others to bask in.

Be moved by. Feel empathy with. Turn away in disgust at the cavernous echoes it sends back to their own hidden wreckage.

A peek at the creative process from a different angle.

This slantview: part selfish; part reverential .  .  . may be skewed.

 

Back to those summer days, though. I do find myself passively reading. Like a chipmunk gathering stock for the winter, I collect word-concepts for the burst of creative urgency that nips at the frigid hiney of every Winter Solstice.

A life-cycle that I’m unconscious of until I step back and watch myself with all the marionette strings severed.

A lightning flash of a new landscape blinks.

It’s a veil unblackened.

There’s a temptation to draw a conclusion.

But, I know the little assassin in my mind will shoot bullet holes in whatever billboard I erect. Billboard

So, I’ll hug darkness with wonderment.