enhanced by my friend Dennis Bayer (whose house it is by the way)
Life on the docks involves shopping carts. They can be a mysterious thing. At times we have an absolute bevy of them. At times, none can be found. Sometimes, shopping carts from Toys R Us appear - there isn't a Toy R Us for miles! Shopping carts help with moving groceries and furniture and and trash and recycle form the houseboats to the parking lot, which depending on where you live on the dock can be quite a stretch. And some people call them the South Forty Walker. Our previous neighbor and friend Adele had a small cart that stayed near her gate which no one touched - so it would always be available for her to lean on, to balance with, to use to carry things to and from her houseboat, the Dandelion - where we now live.
In the picture it’s 1997. I’m 39, with my family, posing in the ’76 mg midget that never would pass smog. I’m two months removed from my own cancer diagnosis and surgery. My mom has just succumbed to her own 5-year battle. We all had one last Christmas together. She loved to order from LL Bean. The forest green sweater was a gift that hadn’t arrived in time for Christmas day. Maybe it was on back order. But a few days before my March 3 birthday, a few days after she passed, it came in the mail. Literally a gift from the grave. I still have the sweater; still wear it once or twice a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s lost a little shape, so have I. The color has faded in places and a white spot mysteriously appeared which I colored in with a green felt pen. Neruda always wrote in green the color of hope. I do when I can. I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh this morning. He talked about how he grieved after losing his mother. One night he had a dream and she was alive and well and smiling and her hair was flowing and they laughed and had wonderful conversations. And when he awoke he realized that the idea that he had lost his mother was only an idea. That she was alive inside him and always would be. I'll think about this each time I wear the sweater. Each time I take it to the dry cleaner and carefully fold it for another day. The way I think of mom and smile when I see a hummingbird; when I eat Mexican food, her favorite; when I see my kids, now grown, and my daughter and sister who love to craft like she did; and the sweetness of my son and his wife, and the smile of my sweetheart Phylly B, so generous and kind . . . I see mom's smile too and feel her love. Now as I approach 60, I understand that the gift was not from the grave. It is here now, from her, always ~
I've often thought writing fiction is like turning on the lights in your house at night and walking across the street to see how you live. The other day we went to our neighbor's houseboat, had some scotch, and checked out their view. Short story.
Returning from Noir City Film Fest one midnight last week, we heard a who-who-who-ing on The Owl, our neighbor's houseboat, answered by a call coming from some bobbing mast in the channel. I put my hands together and responded with a whistle. Silence. I snapped a Hail Mary photo in the dark and sent it to Dennis B., a photo magician, to sort it all out. Who knew?? The iPhone wasn't talking. Neither was it's pocket pal, iFlask. And neither, was cagey Dennis B.
"Nature’s particular gift to the walker, through the semi-mechanical act of walking — a gift no other form of exercise seems to transmit in the same high degree — is to set the mind jogging, to make it garrulous, exalted, a little mad maybe — certainly creative and suprasensitive, until at last it really seems to be outside of you and as if it were talking to you whilst you are talking back to it." - Kenneth Grahame
After a cafe reading last week, having heard many fine stories and poems, and feeling juiced from the night, I walked to my car, looked up, and saw this on a wall. A graff writer, a sign of the times, a story I'll remember.
"Every human person is inevitably involved with two worlds: the world they carry within them and the world that is out there. All thinking, all writing, all action, all creation and all destruction is about that bridge between the two worlds. All thought is about putting a face on experience… One of the most exciting and energetic forms of thought is the question. I always think that the question is like a lantern. It illuminates new landscapes and new areas as it moves. Therefore, the question always assumes that there are many different dimensions to a thought that you are either blind to or that are not available to you. So a question is really one of the forms in which wonder expresses itself. One of the reasons that we wonder is because we are limited, and that limitation is one of the great gateways to wonder." - John O'Donohue
The narrow path of pine needles and smooth pebbles led to the shore of a green pond whose surface reflected the gently moving shapes of boats on the pier. Savoy walked carefully towards the water. An old man whom he had seen many times smoked near the water's edge. He wore a kerchief on his head, one hand tucked into the pocket of his denim jacket. Savoy thought of him as blue — his kerchief, his jacket, his jeans . . . the trail of smoke. For the first time ever, he said hello.
The blue man nodded, his smile kind, his eyes blue. Savoy walked along the shore respecting solitude. But also putting distance between himself and the smoke — unmistakably weed, which had once held a significant place in his life, some would say too significant, long ago.
A lone duck floated in the water. Savoy watched as the current moved it away. Ripples captured him and he knew he could watch water all day. Across the pond Blue Man vanished. ~
I love the in-between time between Christmas & New Years, out for a walk, tai chi & coffee, this time of reflection
Every year our neighbor across the channel Blaze Nash lights up her tug Otto and serenades the docks with her friends who play lovely Christmas songs and sing so beautifully. Floating Carols. It's an extraordinary waterfront experience. Wondrous. ~
I'm delighted to discover the nautical origins of words and phrases we commonly use and rely on. 'To tide me over' is from the days when a sailor or fisherman ashore needed to borrow some money until the tide came in and his ship could go to sea and he could earn some posh. My friend Neil, Ordinary Seaman, sent me this:
"Don't know why but made a list of all the nautical words that I could think of that are preceded by an a.
Thought you might get something out of the muse.
If I could send along a smell to accompany these words it would be the unmistakable odor that exists in all bosun's lockers. I remember it as :
Marlin ( a tarry twine used for binding splices ) mixed with a hint of mold, and a dash of turpentine.
Like pine needles baking in the sun ...one whiff and I find it splits my consciousness ...I'm in the past and the present simultaneously.
Aweigh.... as in anchor.; Alow ...work on deck; Aloft ...working in the rigging; Ahead...;
Abeam....A line drawn perpendicular to the keel from midships; Abaft......anything aft of that line
Astern...; Aback ....sails blown back against the spars; Athwawrtship ...perpendicular to the line of the keel ; Alee ...anything not to windward; Avast ...stop what your doing ; Adrift; Aground; Ashore; Awash; Ahull....to take down all sails and drift with the prevailing winds; Aboard; About...to turn , as in come about; Rudder commands: Hard a-starboard, Hard a-port, Rudder a-midships."
To which I humbly added one of my favorites: Ahoy!
Just the other day the smell from someone’s fireplace, took me back to Peace Corps, Guatemala, Ciudad Vieja, black beans and scrambles eggs (beans with eggs??!) 1981. Aqua and Fuego— the hot volcano, loomed over the town. Ahoy, memory, long forgotten friend!