Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Ghost in My Computer

Every year now I get more into Halloween. I don’t know what that says about me. Second childhood coming around perhaps? Now that’s scary.

When my daughters were young– and Halloween was always their favorite–I hobbled through it with eyes on what I considered more important upcoming holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I feel bad about that.

Sure I helped them with their costumes, but didn’t stay up nights like some moms with felt, tulle, shears, super glue and sewing machines. I like to think that because the girls essentially did it themselves, they became the creative women they are today.

This year, I’m pleased to say, I ushered in the holiday at the “Hallows in the Cathedral” concert performed by The Seattle Women’s Chorus at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Chanting, singing classical, showtunes, and pop in powdered white faces with dark red lips, capes and hoods, in a cathedral dark and remarkably unembellished, it was heavenly in a pagan sort of way.

So here is what is really haunting me lately: internet addiction. Call it an obsession, call it possession, it is coming to get me. I can feel it. It’s an addiction that crept up slowly over the years, and suddenly, can pull one under.

Once upon a time, I could go to my laptop and write. Now I have to clear all the email and check facebook, which sends me listening to Ted Talks, reading blogs of interest, newspaper articles of interest, signing petitions, and circulating petitions. Seeing where my daughters are, and what my husband is up to. Catching up on everyone’s photo album, travels and endeavors, hearing new music, old music, viewing U Tube videos. Browsing my favorite stores, browsing One King’s Lane, Joss & Main, Gilt and Haute. Off on tangents I never would have anticipated, and couldn’t begin to retrace.

And this happens every day.

All this before I’ve written one word.

Even my Morning Pages practice of nearly two decades is under assault. Although I write in another room, I hop up and down at every opportunity to log on. Sneaking and peeking, the obsessive-compulsive checking of email and facebook.

Can’t take ten steps without turning around and going back “to check.”

Can’t be in the same room and get into anything else. See what I mean?

Even as I write this, I am checking my email & facebook messages and posts. Thank god I don’t carry a smart phone. Thank god I don’t text or tweet too.

Sometimes instead of logging out, I have to shut it down and pretend that it needs its sleep. And go for a walk.

Oh get me out of here (writing at home)! I need a job. A job that isn’t wired. Something in the wilderness. Something like a park ranger.

My friend Teri Clifford has a sticker system. Using little gummy stars on her calendar each day, she gives herself one color for having exercised, and another color for journaling. I should adopt this. With the color green for staying off the internet one whole day.

For only nature can save me now.

9 Comments

Filed under Halloween, internet addiction

Blogging in an Alternate Universe

It was a rough week for blogging. Everything I thought I would write about turned out to be, well, nothing.

When my daughters and I and their yellow lab named Charlie set out for an evening of dining under the stars at Zazie Restaurant in San Francisco, I was certain I would write that up. Weather permitting, monday nights are open to dogs on the patio at Zazie, one of our favorite eating places in town. For her part, Charlie (Charlie is a girl) behaved with perfect aplomb (she’s done this before), sitting demurely by our table, waiting for someone to pass the treats. I looked around the patio and all of the dining dogs were on best behavior. Small dogs sat placidly on people’s laps. Nobody barked. No one had an accident. It was all so darn civil that I forgot all about mining material for my blog, as there was nothing to write. Dining with dogs was as normal as, well, dining at home.

San Francisco is like that. An alternate universe that actually functions better than the other.

Terminal 2 at SFO (San Francisco International Airport) offers a yoga room. Is this not a first? Now there’s my blog, I thought, and after clearing security, hastened to it. Free of charge and furnished with mats, mirrors, and a floating blue wall. Softly lit, calm, quiet, a mobile phone-free zone for meditation and stretching out–before having to fold one’s self up like an origami crane on the plane.

Everything surprisingly natural there too, in the yoga room. And no good for blogging.

Back in Seattle, I recalled writer Isabel Allende here on a book tour, telling the attending crowd that if she didn’t live in The Bay Area, Seattle is where she would like to live. For I feel the same way, the other way around.

1 Comment

Filed under blogging

A Wedding in Mendocino

“Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.” Paul Theroux

There is nothing like a destination wedding, for it is a gift to all. Last weekend we attended a Hawaiian themed wedding in Mendocino, California. Driving one hundred and fifty miles north of San Francisco, a stunningly beautiful and varied terrain unfolded. Sunny and dry Sonoma with fall colored grape leaves turned into Redwood forests deep and dark, and came out on the Pacific Coast Highway. There, with hawks circling on high over land that has done everything in its power to keep from development, perched the white shingled town of Mendocino on a headland jetting out into the ocean. How it glistened! We were fortunate, they said, for it is often foggy.

Our bride was elegant in elbow length gloves and vintage Hawaiian. The groom wore shorts and a Tommy Bahama shirt. Their guests went to all lengths to wear tropical prints.

Floral arrangements blazed in brilliant oranges, reds and purples: bird of paradise, lobster claw, halaconia, torch ginger, and liatris. Orchids poised throughout. People mingled with leis and kukui nut beads strung around their necks. The surf, the pop of champagne corks, and clink of toasting glasses.

And Hawaii was in the feast. Pork with pear sauce, prawns, scallops. Pate, duck confit, ahi with sesame and soy ginger sauce. Fresh cut papaya, pineapple, kiwi, and mango. Banana cream pies in lieu of a wedding cake.

Did I mention the wine? Did I mention they married?

When I love a place I start to see my life there. How else to live multiple lives? Three weeks ago I was practically house hunting in Laguna Beach, but my first impression of Mendocino is one I may never get over.

4 Comments

Filed under destination weddings, theme weddings

Confession of an Arsonist

For a few years now I’ve been conducting a writing workshop at Queen Anne Manor, a retirement home in Seattle. What had begun as a six-week teaching practicum requirement for my MFA, shows no signs of ever letting up. “Confession of an Arsonist” by Paul E. Waggoner is an example of the stories we create each week  from the material of our lives.

Paul began at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in 1951 and worked as director for 36 years until his retirement. He then continued research, often with a colleague from Rockefeller University, and in 2012 they published that global cropland would reach a peak expanse in the 21st century, a sequel of their “How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature.”

Crossing the continent at ninety to live closer to his family, Paul joined our writing workshop. It is with his permission of course, that I publish this piece. 

Confession of an Arsonist 

by Paul E. Waggoner

Once upon a time in Iowa in a town called Centerville, celebrating Independence Day ranked up there with Christmas. Firecrackers ranked with stuffed stockings, candy canes and spicy stuffing.

For the Fourth of July, Centervillans planned for weeks. For weeks, the tall, lanky sheriff of Appanoose County grew a beard like Honest Abe’s. The man who wore the star awed youngsters and persuaded voters to keep him in office. The sheriff wore a top hat, just as Lincoln did when he delivered the Gettysburg address. The personification of law and order was awesome as he strode the courthouse Square.  Waggoner Pic

Although Centerville was still the county seat and celebrated the Fourth in style, it had seen better times. In the 1890s, coal miners opened mines. Immigrants from Central Europe and Italy swelled the population. They dug coal and hauled it behind ponies that never came up the mine shaft to sunshine. But after World War I, hard times struck.

Nevertheless during the mining boom, men had become rich enough to build and then abandon what seemed like mansions to farm boys. Never mind that windows were shattered and plaster falling. The wealthy passed, but their mansions survived into the 1930s.

On the Fourth of July, boys from another neighborhood trespassed on our turf, the territory of the Maple StreetGang. We were prepared.

First, the Gang tried infantry tactics learned on the flickering screen of black-and-white Saturday matinees. Those maneuvers drove the invaders across the boundaries of the Maple Street Gang. Heavy artillery followed.

Other boys might carry lady fingers, sparklers and cones-of-fire. But we had Cherry Bombs, red but larger than a cherry. Our heavy artillery, they were nearly as large as golf balls.

After infantry tactic drove the trespassers back acros our boundaries, they retreated to a decaying mansion. No grand palace, but big enough to shelter small-town boys. In their dilapidated stronghold the fugitives scrabbled up broken plaster and pitched shards out missing windows.

You guessed what happened. Through windows our pursuing force lobbed our heavy artillery of Cherry Bombs. Smoke appeared at windows, closely followed by hotfooting, retreating invaders. The town’sfire siren wailed. We heard the roar of the fire engine approaching. The Maple Street Gang fled to its turf.

Now, safe beyond Iowa jurisdiction and shielded behind the statute of limitation, an apprentice arsonist confesses.

1 Comment

Filed under writing workshp

The Power of Art

starry-night-by-van-gogh1We left Seattle in torrents of rain and darkness and stepped into sunny Laguna Beach for a few days this week. Our good friends opened their arms and opened their door, and throughout our stay I saw their home as an art gallery—for they live with it every day, all this local, live, and original art.

In a word, the impression it made was life-changing, a feast for the eyes.

Walk into town in Laguna and everything is about the arts, from what you hang on your walls to what you drape on your body. Walk Heisler Park overlooking the ocean and the smell of oil paints is intoxicating. From sun up to sun down for three glorious days in Laguna Beach, I submerged myself in the visual arts. I saw paintings in the landscape, the sky, and the water.

My understanding is that the town of Laguna Beach was practically founded by artists who selected it as the perfect spot along the Southern California coastline in which to set up their easels. Where the hills meet the sea and the sea circles in with southern facing coves, and a Mediterranean climate blankets all.

I am trying to carry that mind set home with me. I am talking about Art. What others find a luxury or frivolous, I find essential. I think it may be for us all, though many don’t know it. And that, in fact, may be what is wrong with this country.

For I know this: if everyone were involved in the arts, either in a creating or enjoying capacity, the world would be a better place.

We can do this. Think of the miles of corridors and acres of waiting rooms in all our institutions and offices, and what is on the walls but framed printed reproductions. Over and over again, the same prints. I think we’ve gone numb to art in this country.

Have we forgotten that there are artists out there? Think of the number of art students alone. All the original art being made with hardly any hope of selling. Have we forgotten the power of art and how it can save us? American abstract painter Darby Bannard said it well, “The power of art is not in communication but effect; what it does, not what it relates.”

Just as a writer sees and hears with words, one who takes up photography starts to see photographically. Sculpt, and become extraordinarily sensitive to texture and form. Spend an afternoon in art galleries, and walk back out into a world that is suddenly as rich an oil painting. On and on, art saves us from our worst selves by putting life on a higher plain.

5 Comments

Filed under the power of art