I get to hug my son

Zebu in summer of 1998

Today is Zebu’s birthday and I’m feeling especially grateful. He (and our other son) spent their entire childhoods with Zippy and me and while those years certainly held challenges, we remained intact as a family. The four of us were never forced to seek asylum, we were never denied refuge, and our children weren’t ripped from their parents’ arms. That kind of unspeakable trauma was never part of our lives. Not because we’re exceptional or more deserving, but because we were fortunate enough to be born in the United States. That’s it. Sheer luck.

Today is Zebu’s birthday and I get to hug my son. I’m weeping for those who can’t.

Worth one thousand words

Couldn’t find artist or location of this graffiti.

This image pretty much sums it up:

(1) right now I can’t bear to hear/see/speak about the latest atrocities committed against the planet’s most vulnerable by the world’s most powerful and (2) imperialism and insatiable greed are the two constants behind all U.S. military actions.

We’ve seen this movie.

Souvenir of the day

My writing often contains souvenirs of the day
– a song I heard, a bird I saw –
which I then put into the novel.
~ Amy Tan

Thinking back on my writing day, I didn’t include a snippet of song or any bird images. Instead, I referenced a heartbreaking news item about a ten-year-old girl with serious health issues who has been caught up in this administration’s xenophobia-on-steroids policies. Tomorrow, I’ll try hard for a bird.

I Can’t Breathe

I’m a writer and I’m supposed to be able to express myself.

But for the past two days I’ve struggled to put down words about the stark contrast between my experience as a white female in this society and all the black women who can never, ever take for granted that any of the males in their lives–sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, nephews–will walk back through the door at the end of the day.

I’m heartbroken. For all of us.

Guns Kill People

I’m too heartsick to seek out details, but there was another shooting at a Colorado high school today. One of my sons is still in high school (a different one), and I’m at a complete loss. How did we get to the point in which it’s commonplace for kids to go to school with the knowledge that some unhinged individual with a gun might show up that day?

F*ck you, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA and anyone else who says s/he’ll fight to the death to protect the Second Amendment. Your priorities are massively f*cked up.

flowers and birds 023

The Dude and Books and Me

I’ve been offline for the past month, mostly because I’ve been spending time with my cat Lebowski. Five weeks ago we found out he is terminally ill, and my heart shattered when I thought it was only a matter of days before I had to say goodbye. Instead, we’ve been gifted all this extra time so I’m soaking up the love while I still have the chance. Trying hard to ignore the heartbreak in my future.

Lebowski is one of the most loving felines I’ve ever known and he wants to be close to me all the time. He’s either on my lap or curled against my leg (he even sits next to my head while I do my planks, enduring the extra-loud Green Day I blast for motivation). He likes being outside so we sit on the deck beneath an old shower curtain I’ve rigged to give us shade, his tail gently flicking as he watches birds in the yard and squirrels running along the fence. I caress my kitty and listen to his purr, trying hard not to think too far into the future. Trying hard to stay in the moment, memorizing the arch of his neck when he’s angling for the best scratch. Memorizing the silky feel of his tail sliding through my fingers and the sight of the long-long whiskers that grew on a once-wide cat.

Because Lebowski likes me stationary, I’ve been doing LOTS of reading. The writing hasn’t been happening, in part because when I work at my standing desk, the kitty comes in and meows up at me until I get down on the floor and rub his tummy. Instead, I’ve read stacks of books (lots of them good and others not-so-good) these past weeks. It feels right to read other writers’ words while I fill my heart with Lebowski.

Mostly I’m trying hard to remember that while this isn’t the long happily-ever-after I’d hoped for when Lebowski came into my life, every day with him is a gift.

The Dude in June of 2009

The Dude in June of 2009

Remembering Levon Helm

I grew up listening to The Band.
My parents had one of those huge cabinet stereos
that they’d hooked up to our intercom system
so music played throughout the house.

I washed dishes to The Band,
tanned outside on the deck,
lemon-oiled paneling and washed windows to their music.
I spent hours in my room, studying the album covers and liner notes
as I listened to the stories-in-songs they sang while trading verses and
marveled at the many instruments they played and the sounds they created.

These were the soundtracks for much of my childhood:

   
   

Rick Danko
Levon Helm
Garth Hudson
Richard Manuel
Robbie Robertson

I knew their names and faces.
And I loved them even more when I found out they’d been
Bob Dylan’s back-up band before becoming The Band.
(Dylan painted the cover art for Music From Big Pink)

I spent my fourteenth birthday at home during a snowstorm
in Wisconsin while they played their very last concert together
in San Francisco. I was heartbroken I couldn’t be there with them
and their many friends: Bob Dylan (see#23), Joni Mitchell, The Staples,
Neil Young, EmmyLou Harris, etc.  But I’ve watched that concert
“rockumentary” (see #24),
 many times since.

In the spring of 1985, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel
played a small club somewhere in the San Fernando Valley.
My friend, Scott E., and I went, lining up at the door well before the show
so we’d get good seats. We were front row. No Levon and no Robbie, but it
was still remarkable basking in the music and memories.

Richard died the following spring.
Rick died in 1999.
And today, we lost Levon Helm.

Levon was the drummer but he also sang some of their most famous songs.
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up On Cripple Creek. And not-so-
famous Ophelia. When I was pregnant, I made a mix tape of songs for my labor soundtrack. I wanted music so familiar to me I wouldn’t need to expend any energy on
thinking or processing the songs. I wanted to be able to sing every single word
without hesitation. The Weight was one such song.

But right now, as I mourn the passing of yet another member of The Band,
I offer you Levon singing All La Glory.

Thank you for all the beautiful music, Levon.
Wherever you are, I hope you’re still smiling and laying down the beat.

It’s Monday Mourning

              

My heart hurts.

I’m not even sure where to begin with this story
that involves an eccentric old juniper tree and a neighbor.

Short story: neighbor didn’t like eccentric juniper tree
that grew behind my fence in a Dr. Seuss-like fashion,
and over the years advocated for cutting it down because
the not-conventionally-attractive tree interfered with her view.

I defended the tree on the grounds it partially blocked my
view of the enormous new house down the hill but also
stated that I liked the tree because it had character.

Neighbor continued to advocate for removal and last year
I begrudgingly said she could cut off the very top five feet or
so of the droopy, swamp creature-esque tree.  Neighbor 
did nothing until one night this past week when we had another 
conversation about the tree. I repeated that I liked the tree because it had
character and because it blocked the house below, but that she could top it off.

I’m sure you’ve guessed what happened.
On Saturday afternoon, while I was home and completely unaware,
my neighbor came into my yard, went behind the fence and butchered the tree
so that it now just reaches above the fence.  

As soon as I walk onto my patio and face downhill, I see the scarred remains jutting over
the fence. Behind it I see the enormous house down below.  Then I close my eyes
and see the off-center, funky old juniper that used to provide habitat for birds and squirrels.

I’m crying as I write this.

I feel as if I let down that tree, that I should not have made any assumptions
about how it would be treated by my neighbor.
I wish I could rewind the tape and handle the whole situation differently.

Yesterday while I was writing a letter to my neighbor about the hurt and anger I felt,
Zippy discovered a card from her in our front door.

Neighbor’s card said a tree was being planted in a National Forest in my honor
and also that she’d plant another tree behind the fence if I wished.
She apologized and said she’d never do that again.

My anger is mostly gone but I cannot shake the sadness.
I’m not sure how to move forward.
It feels disrespectful to leave the tree as is but I don’t know if I can cut it down.
Yesterday morning when I stood next to it, crying, a bird flew from the lower branches.

This whole situation has affected my health and I can’t see how it’s ever going to get easier.
Whenever I face that direction I’ll either see where the tree used to be or its mangled remains.
Neither feels like a good choice.