Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rewriting My Life in San Francisco

I am standing in the windows of my daughters’ second floor apartment in San Francisco. Double Decker buses regularly roll by the windows and the view goes both ways. We look out at the passengers as they peer in at us. I have become accustomed to that in this city. When I first started visiting San Francisco I saw the inhabitants as characters in a play. How theatrical they all look. Clothes as costumes, accessories as props, and people as troupe. Somehow everyone here is younger and has more energy, more imagination and resources then the rest of us, it seems.

Cities have always been a place to reinvent oneself, and San Francisco is becoming my second city. I want to visit as often as my daughters will have me. Their place is between Haight Ashbury and Buena Vista. I won’t give out the address but Grace Slick of The Jefferson Airplane reportedly lived here. This means more to me than it possibly could to my daughters. She had to have been the age they are now. We all were at that time. And here I am now, dreaming of reinventing myself yet again. Cities give us this sense of permission. Interesting, the anonymity we can feel in the city. It’s the small towns that invade our space.

I dream of putting a writing table in a bay window such as this, looking out to colorful Victorian architecture, stain glass windows lit at night, pedestrians, the small circle of people at the bus stop, and those riding by eye-to-eye. I am thinking I may never run out of material here. And although I have never lived in San Francisco before, I am thinking that I will feel I have come full circle.

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Filed under cities, reinventing, Uncategorized, Writing

Musings from the Yard Guy

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  Margaret Atwood

Next winter, should we start to complain about the gray season in Seattle, remind us that spring comes early. Chances are that as soon as some of us start to wonder if we can take it anymore, the season will turn a page. Already it seems to be upon us.

We have been enjoying a string of beautiful days in Seattle. The sun is clearing the sky of cloud. I do not have to imagine blue, it is blue. Crocuses are pushing up everywhere. Look up, and some trees are in bud. My neighbor’s hellebores are in full, outrageous bloom. It’s here!

With nature you just have to be there, be very, very present. So I dropped everything and ran outside to “spruce up” (I love that phrase) our little city lot. The Pacific Northwest is populated with cedars, redwoods and pines. The earth glows green, the light is green, and naturally, it smells green. In Southern California and the desert, the color green goes gray. Here, even the most mature and ancient trees shine with spring green. Each new leaf is a beginning, and each year I feel I’m being born. If I were a bird I’d fly to this part of the country. Whatever kind of creature, I’d fly, crawl, burrow, hop, swim or walk. I have found a sense of place here that I consider sacred, especially in the spring.

The Seattle Flower and Garden Show opens its doors this week. That is what I’m working toward, like a penance. I’m trimming and pruning and weeding and raking and mulching all around the house. Trimming incessant ivy and tying climbing hydrangea to the back fence. My husband is traveling and I am signing my emails to him each evening, “the yard guy.” By week’s end I intend to get to the show, that’s the goal. I just don’t want to go until I have my house, er grounds, in order. I want to go knowing that I can hold my head high, that my particular plot of earth is cleaned up and ready to receive any plants or bulbs I might carry home from this moment on.

The best is all ahead. When I am tending a garden, the plants’ well-being and my own become inexorably linked. And it works for writing as well. The door from my writing room will be thrown open to the terrace and I will start every day out there puttering around in the garden, finding my thoughts, and watering—which is like prayer or meditation, and then slip back in and write. The days will be longer. No more growing tired and ready for a nap at 4 pm.

I know I am getting ahead of myself, but I did the most significant thing this week: I opened a window. Imagine, after all this winter huddled up with rugs and throws and fireplaces. Such a simple gesture: open a window! It hits me like an epiphany every year.

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Filed under epiphany, gardening, spring, Uncategorized

What a Girl’s Got to Do

I am up early and watching the light come on in the east. The homes on that side of the street are utterly dark. All that is visible are the slices of light between the homes. It is much like reading a negative. I have noticed paradigm shifts like this occurring all around lately. Seriously, it’s almost seismic.

I have the most extraordinary girlfriends. One of them phoned this week to inform me that she has been offered an outstanding professional commitment for a year in Jacksonville, Florida.

“But did you tell them you are married and live in California?” I asked.

“They know that,” she said, adding “but I just might do it.”

I tried to think of how she could swing this. Yes, her children were grown and gone, but her husband is a partner in a firm and not exactly mobile. Their marriage is solid, and they are just now coming down the home stretch of a long remodel on their beautiful home, and I know she had been looking forward to that.

“How?” is all I could think to ask.

And she proceeded to explain to me how it just might work…

Perhaps I couldn’t see it at first because I am too tangled in my own paradigm shift. My role has been changing and I don’t have to go to Jacksonville to get it. It’s here. Graduate school sealed the deal for me. During those two years my husband became an exceptional cook. Now here we are. Me with my MFA in Creative Writing under my belt, and he’s still cooking and is better than ever—because all these things, writing, cooking, take practice. Anyway, every sign around the house seems to say that I am now free to write. I’m trying to get used to that and take myself very seriously as a writer, knowing that my husband may very well be retiring by the time we see my writing career take off.

Back to my girlfriend, the one who I honestly think is going to choose to go to Jacksonville. For one year. And rent a charming little bungalow. And decorate as she pleases by hopping around antique shops and such. This is their agenda, for she has her husband’s backing entirely: when she isn’t flying back, he will fly out and together they will explore The South. All the places they want to discover: Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort, South Miami and Key West. As she names them, I realize how much I have longed to see these places too.  They will have one year to do it all and will approach it as they have France or Ireland or any other country. Get a car and go—submerge themselves in the culture, knowing that in a year it will be over and they will both be home in California, all the richer for the experience, as with Ireland or France.

She left me feeling envious of her opportunity. I know what my writing room means to me; what married woman doesn’t fantasize about having her own bungalow? Imagine being able to spring for that. And the romantic interest that could occur looking forward to seeing your lover, your husband, on weekends. And too, all that autonomy throughout the week…

I think she’s going to do it. She’s brave and brilliant and her husband is, as I said, a gem. It’s funny:  I can remember when my friend wasn’t particularly fond of flying. And now she’s all over the map.

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Filed under cooking, girlfriends, paradigm shift, relocation, Writing