Category Archives: Dead things

Stuff that looks better dead.

Dawn of the Dead

Image

(Emerged from the back of my fridge this morning. Was steak at some point.)

On this, the last day of October, I rejoice.

No, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween.  My son, who has dressed up as an eagle and a mummy and a ghost and a race car in years past, now has feet that are larger than his father’s.  His Halloween costume this year will be his fine personality and hopefully the manners I’ve instilled in him, as he walks up to someone’s door dressed in a creepy mask and asks for candy. He’s in high school.  The ship has so sailed on trick or treating.

I rejoice on this day because October is over.  For me, October is a remembrance of how life can skid sideways.  How things that seem so in order and in hand, are actually far out of order.  Fourteen years ago I was told I had cancer.  The boy with the man feet had just recently celebrated his first birthday.  The next day after my diagnosis, we walked around a pumpkin patch near the coast in a mental fog, picking out big orange orbs to decorate our home, because that is what you do to celebrate Halloween.

It’s just my luck that everyone celebrates breast cancer in October.  We are made aware.  We are awash in pink.  Corporations make millions off painting their products this color, sometimes the same products that are filled with carcinogens that give us cancer in the first place.  This bothers me.  Saddens me.  I wish that companies would simply remove the chemicals and talk about that instead.  Then donate some money to local causes that actually help women with the day-to-day issues that arise when fighting the disease.

The light starts to change in October.  Darkness is coming.  There is a chill in the air, even in California.

And yet.  Tomorrow will be November, the month of Thanksgiving.  If October houses my personal “Oh! No!” moment, then November is the month of my redemption.  It was the month I took charge those 14 years ago.  My surgery was on November 4th.  You better believe I was thankful.

Still am.  So very much.

In fact this year, during this October, I worked hard to write a new story for myself.  Thousand Words Press, the company I formed to publish my children’s book Nowhere Hair, has merged with the copywriting work I have done since 1990. While I will never stop helping women with the hard task of explaining their cancer to their kids through this wonderful book, it’s time for me to remember that my ongoing inspiration comes when I create.  With words.  With images.

Thousand Words Press’s new logo, I am now realizing, is a big orange orb.

How perfectly fitting.  A circle of life.

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Patience

Some might call it neglect.

But I learned from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that the spice cardamom is the seed pod from cilantro.  Huh!  So as my cilantro plants bolted towards the heavens, I resisted the urge to clean up the garden and rip them out.   I let them simmer, and slowly the little hard green seeds adorning the umbrella-like tips of the plant turned golden brown.

They taste like a far-off cousin of some citrus.  I’ll use them in my next roast chicken.

So here’s to letting things go … really go.  It’s been a theme of mine lately.  I took the summer off from “being creative” and just decided to be.  I needed to recharge my batteries and decide on a new direction (or perhaps re-commit myself to the direction I was on.)  Many of the seeds that I’ve planted along the way, both physically in the case of my carrots and beets, and metaphorically in the case of magazines pitched and cancer contacts made, are bearing fruit now.

There’s a lesson in there, I think.

 

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The End of Days: Part 2

OK, I’ve never done a two-blog.  I try to be very concise.  Give you a nibble, not a 3-course meal with coffee.  But if I wrote ALL the strange things that happened to me on Saturday in one long blog, you’d hate me for taking up so much of your time.

So part two of my day.

Having survived a marauding lady deer, we continued our hike.  Anders loves to give me options of the routes we can take, and as I considered the two that he proposed, I wished that somehow we could end up walking past these houses that I’ve heard are perched up in the woods.  I mean that literally.  Occupants of these homes have to walk up long, winding dirt paths from the car park to get to their houses.  Cool in nice weather.  A bitch, I’m certain, in the rain with groceries and a crying child.   This thought had nothing really to do with the two options he gave me.  It just popped into my head.  I noticed it, and let it go.  Very Northern California of me.    We chose a direction and set off.

Now again, we do a lot of hiking.  Over the course of 20 years with this man, I’ve taken a million steps.  Most of them have been with a dog in tow.  Never has a dog of mine killed a defenseless bunny, but guess what?  Yup, today was the day.  She did one of her signature hop moves into a bush, I heard the distinctive crunching noise of something going very badly, and when I turned and gasped, she dropped the adorable, gray, still-trembling but very much in the last moments of its life bunny.   I stood there with my hands covering my mouth, muttering, “Oh noooo, nooo, nooo,” endlessly until Anders snapped me out of it and told me there was nothing to do.

My dog is now a bunny killer.  Certainly the world must be coming to an end soon, because this just was so not ok with me.  We continued on, and at this point figured there was nothing to lose to go down some new paths we had never tried before.  I mean, what are the odds of MORE strange things happening?  I let the man with the internal compass lead, and after having not passed another living soul for an hour of walking, we passed a mom and young girl in a deeply wooded area.  Soon thereafter the trail dead ended.  Unless this young girl was part goat, I’m at a loss to understand where they came from.   Because it seemed so … odd … we continued to look for the path.  Stomping through undergrowth and through a little creek, we realized that there was nothing on the other side and we needed to turn around.  As I looked down to pick my way back across the water, I noticed a submerged old glass bottle.  Now, I love finding old bottles in our yard.  It happens every so often, when we are digging somewhere, as our yard back during the turn of the century when this house was built was the dump.  And here were funky old bottles just half submerged in the muck, calling to me.  Cool.  Very very cool.  I dug up two and was going for my third when Anders told me it was getting dark and we needed to go back down the trail to find another way out.

Do you know where this is going?  The way out, a path we had never gone down before, was the SAME one I had wished to find.  We passed the houses tucked up on the hillside, and even some woman carrying up her groceries.  As we exited this area, there was a wedding reception in the grove of redwood trees, yellow lights twinkling and beautiful people in love.

Had my thought really manifested in this action?   On this day, it sure did.

So.  We made it home.  Didn’t get hit by a car, or see a streaker, or have any other animals burst into song.  It seemed that the crazy part of the day was over.  We made appetizers, I made a fire in the outdoor fireplace, we poured ourselves a nice glass of wine and sat down for a game of Scrabble.  A party at the house above us was in full swing, the happy conversations of young people laughing mixing with the music we had on the stereo.

I commented on how much I loved the moment.  Perfection.

Until the sound of something unexpected thunked off the wood trellis above our heads and smashed onto stone somewhere near.  And the party sounds above us ceased right about the time Anders screamed “Your Party is Over.”  My lame-o “That was so uncool” hardly encapsulated how un-cool it was.

Some dumb-ass drunk kid decided it was bright to try and pick us off with a missile of a glass Bud bottle thrown from 150 feet away off their deck.   Because it might have been the end of the world for one of us, and then it would have been the end of the world for the one left.

So, in review:  Deer.  Bunnies.  Glass bottles both old and uncovered from decades in the muck and new and thrown with a crash into our midst.  Ideas coming to life.  Weddings.  And yes, the cops.  In my house.  Any one of these situations would have made for a unique day.  You know, dinner table conversation.  But mixed together into a melange of strangeness, it qualified, at the end of the day, as quite a day indeed.

Was your Saturday as strange as mine?  Please tell me yes, it will make me feel better.

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Goodbye My Lovely

It’s not often that you part ways with a member of your family after 22 years.

After graduating from college, my husband and his father traveled to an oversized patch of asphalt outside of San Francsico and spent a full day haggling with a car salesman over a certain new grey Jeep Cherokee.

Anders is an environmentalist of the first order.  Not only has he made it his living, studying environmental issues at Yale and then working for a succession of wind power renewable energy providers, but he also embraces the principles at home.  He simply doesn’t endorse in what has become known as the classic American throw-away mentality.

He uses file folders until the tabs fall off from overuse.  His affection for certain items of clothing is legendary.  One pair of shorts I purchased for him 20 years ago just last week was donated to the rag bag.  There were holes in the holes, but they still worked to cover his important bits while doing sit-ups and push-ups at home, so they stayed.

And then there was his Jeep.  The perfect car for an outdoorsy young man and his dog sidekick, the Jeep faithfully drove us both around town, and around the country.  We’ve taken epic American road trips, driving back roads cross-country from California to Connecticut, our dog Guinness resting his head on the black glove box nestled between the two front seats.  We’ve 4-wheeled through Wyoming and Montana.  We’ve driven to California’s Tahoe for skiing (gleefully shifting to 4-wheel without having to endure the elements), easily powered to the top of Old Smokey for our 7th wedding anniversary, and down to a tiny blues festival in Mississippi.  We endured decades of summer temperatures without air-conditioning, just the strong hot air blasting through the open windows and silly little triangle windows that never seemed to shut fully once they were originally opened.

We pulled people out of ditches with that car.  Slept in the back when the rains finally seeped through our tent.  And much to my utter horror, were discovered by a police officer in  … ahem … a compromising position outside of Kettleman’s City, California during a particularly lusty road trip.

The Jeep hauled treasures of every size and manner without complaint:  our 9-foot-long dining room table home from the auction house in Connecticut, lashed to the top and held up there by hope and twine.  The ridiculously heavy air-hockey table we gave Nils and Grace.  Anders’ trusty kayak.  Countless pieces of furniture lodged in the surprisingly roomy back.  Load after bloody load of yard debris destined for the dump.

The paint went somewhere in the 90s.  The seatbelt on the driver was used so many times that it lost the will to bite and hold.  An errant nail eventually slit the sagging headliner and the thin material started to hang down like the interior of a Morrocan casbah.  Ultimately Anders ripped out the fabric, leaving behind creepy stalagtite remnants of the once sticky adhesive used to hold it up.  We went through alternators and radiators and tires that my mother purchased for us when we were broke and first married.  The locks broke.  Hoses split.  Windshield wipers slowed, as if needing a nap, and after hard rains, the floor mat on the passenger side would be wet.  And yet.  Mechanics kept putting the Jeep back together, and we kept driving Hank, the name we eventually gave our big, boxy, trusted driving companion.

Friends started questioning our sanity.  After all, the average length of time of car ownership in this country is 5.5 years.  Anders saw no need.  Just as long as it would get us up the mountains in winter, we would keep it.  It was paid off, after all.

But one day mid-span on the Golden Gate Bridge, the shifter abruptly ended up in Anders’ hand, as if the gearbox had simply threw it up.  Not just the top ball, but the entire stick.

For the first time in my life, I was scared to drive the car.

So with 232,895 miles, we did what any self-respecting environmentalist would do.

We sold it to our long-time friend Agustin for $1.  He is delighted to be only the second owner of Hank, and undaunted by fixing the issues that come up with an aged vehicle.

So may the road stay firmly under you, Hank.  Ride on!

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Crash & Burn

A cautionary tale.

Laptop computer with long powercord stretched taut.  Child moving at high speed.  Flying computer.  Little bits of data scrambled on the screen.

Back up your data.  (Thank god this wasn’t my computer … but I’m sorry for my husband …)

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Stacking Up

Little dead sea urchins from the bottom of the sea.

I can’t get over how lovely they are.  They show the perfection of nature’s graphic design at work.

I wrapped them in tissue paper and said a prayer that they would make it the 17 hours of travel time back to my house.  They did.

They are, hands down, better than any t-shirt or other island item that I could buy.  But are they not just more stuff?  What is it about humans that we like to collect and possess things?  Might they not have done more on the sea bed?  Should I have left them as a home for some little critter?

Thoughts?

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Things We Don’t Appreciate, Part 2

Water.

Really, we don’t appreciate water.

Because when it only comes from the heavens, and the heavens have crossed their arms and said “no, not today” to rain for five months running, people get thirsty.  And things start to die.

This is a picture of the tree in front of our house.  Usually it is fully in bloom, a dense green that blocks out a large part of our view of the harbor.  This year it is sticks and just the smallest white flowers budding, desperate to do their showy flowery thing and feed the hummingbirds.

Huge palm trees are dying.  The grapefruit tree down the driveway has old, brown grizzled-looking orbs on it, instead of pretty yellow globes.  I’ve taken to collecting the water from the kitchen and giving it to the dried up plants outside the front door.  Once the water is on in the shower, we’re in. It doesn’t matter that it is cold at first. It is wet, and that’s all that counts.

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