Tuesday, May 2, 2017

State of the State of Margaritaville

Evening walk last week.

I'm alive and I live in paradise.

For more than a year I've been wrestling.
Swollen joints.(They went away; yesterday the swollen knees and ankles came back) A hoarse voice.
Musing over  Dan's central tenet. You're doing the best that you can. Really, you did the best that you could at the time. Really really, you did the best that you could at the time with what you knew at the time.

I am alive and I live in paradise.

My voice is unreliable. Is that the same as an unreliable narrator?

Why am I not working on a writing project right now?

Some days I can barely make myself understood. In places that I go regularly, people know to lean closer. Other days I clear my throat a million times. The phlegm lady.

Yes, I've been to doctors.
Hooray, I'll be on Medicare in November.

The lungs are the seat of grief, the acupuncturist says. Okay.

The Integrated Medicine doc says no dairy and gluten. Sometimes I cheat on the dairy.

What do you do with grief when you're grieving over a dead person while taking care of a dying person?
Wow, wasn't that like, a long time ago?

I am alive and I live in paradise.

Paradise itself is struggling.

Starting in the lower right foreground, notice the white bumps, and follow them into the distance. These are the breasts of western grebes, poisoned by domoic acid. The Pacific loons, cormorants, and pelicans are darker and cannot be distinguished in the photograph.

The beach, early morning, after the winds have subsided.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beach Report: The Week after Easter

During this week after which many just celebrated the rolling back of the stone from the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, it seems that it should be easy to believe in miracles. But in this paradise, the beach is a morgue without hope of resurrection. Scores of dead birds lie in the sand, the impeccably white breasts of western grebes turned skyward, the dark shapes of cormorants that you hope are just piles of kelp. A pelican lies on his back, pedaling, pedaling and then falls still. Domoic acid poisoning is what neighborhood chitchat and a search of the web tells me. Demonic, spellcheck wants to write. That seems about right to me.

Domoic acid, or red algae, is a naturally occurring toxin, the articles tell you. A few months ago a friend who grew up here, surfing and fishing and boating told me that was an oversimplification. Man, no doubt, has his hand in this somewhere.

The sea lions will probably be next. 


Today, Anacapa in the distance.

Today, a bit later. The islands have disappeared.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bird of the Day: Dark-eyed Junco

The houses are very close together here in beige-world and are separated by block walls. I hung a big mirror outside my dining room to mitigate that walled-in feeling. The bird, one I've never seen or heard before here, really likes swinging on a trailing tendril of the ivy geraniums. He likes to admire himself in the mirror too.

Take a close look at the photo. There's a shadow bird in the background--not a reflection of the junco, but a stained glass window ornament of a hummingbird, hung in my neighbors kitchen window. I'd never noticed it before since I try to avoid looking into my neighbor's windows.

I heard the junco before I saw him. What I heard is the third line of the SONG under the "songs and arm call" button.

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive." Hafiz

 One of my yoga teachers ended a recent class with the quote above. My list is long, and by no means fully described by the photos below. A decade ago things did not feel so joyful in my personal life.

Pure white doves in flight

A beach full of birds and treasures
The roses in my own front yard
Trying to grow a lemon tree
Looking at art
This is from the exhibit, Rotari's Muses, at the Norton Simon

A visit from faraway friends

A sweet dessert from a beloved friend

Friday, March 31, 2017

Yoga, T'ai Chi Chih, the Tibetan Five (which is Yoga) and Just Hoping for Good Luck

My mom aged pretty damn gracefully on her cigarettes and gin. She was a fun to be with, had lots of energy as a grandma, and powered forward after a traumatic lung surgery in 1970-something to live a regular hard working life. Her second lung surgery in 2009 didn't go nearly as well. She finally quit smoking a year or so after she moved in with me in 2012 at the insistence of her vascular surgeon, but even so, it was a slippery slope the last couple of years.

My daughter C., thinks our family might carry the Ozzy Osborne gene. I've always enjoyed drinking (nowadays I drink a lot less) and only twice in my life have I every been sick or even the least bit hung over from partying. But I feel the need for a different approach as I prepare to get on Medicare at the end of this year. After my mysterious illness a year ago I got a bit more serious about my T'ai Chi Chih practice, added more yoga to my week, and at the end of November I began practicing the Tibetan Five at home. The popular lore surrounding the Five makes some big claims about the fountain of youth and while I don't expect to wake some morning with black hair and a 125 lb. physique, I do feel stronger and think that the opening of the upper body and the strengthening of it is a definitely a good thing for me. I've tried to do various iterations of a home yoga practice for years and never was very consistent, but there are lots of videos online for the Tibetan Five. Because of that, and who knows whatever other reasons, the practice has become part of my routine and after beginning with only 5 reps of each of the 5 moves a few months ago, I've been up to the full 21 reps of all 5 moves for the past week or so. 

I also really enjoy reading about yoga and what it has to say about the physical body. Here are a few lines from  Light on Yoga by B.K. S. Iyengar:

      "The yogi feels that to neglect or deny the needs of the body and to think of it as something not divine, is to neglect and deny the universal life of which it is a part. The needs of the body are the needs of the divine spirit which lives through the body. The yogi does not look heavenward to find God for he knows that He is within, being known as the Antaratma (the Inner Self). He feels the kingdom of God within and without and finds that heaven lies in himself."

I've been aware of the divine in the natural world around me for most of my life, but my body often felt like it was only meant to get me into trouble. (Catholic school.) Nowadays, I feel in my bones (what an appropriate expression that is!) how it is the body that tethers us to all that we love in this life on Earth. I feel profoundly the loss of those loved ones who are now longer tied to this life, and I know too that someday I will let go of the tether. Until then I want to remind myself with these daily practices that there is a divine spirit that lives within this body of mine. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday Morning Beach Report: Squishy Pink Aliens, Found Art, and People just build things...

There were dozens of these on the sand this morning. They seemed to be alive--pulsating a bit, shiny and fresh looking. I'd read some neighborhood chatter on the internet saying these things were jellyfish eggs, but the internet look-up that I did says they are salps. They can link together, according to National Geographic, and swim around looking amazing. According to the LA Times, they showed up at the south beaches a few months ago. I was careful not to step on any.

Now for some found art:

Degas Bronze Ballerina lets her hair down and buys some stilts

Room with a View

Friday, March 24, 2017

Healthcare, Selfcare, Taking Care of Business, etc.

Last Saturday's Sunset

Here's a pretty picture to distract you from the political madness. I'm sick to death of looking at pictures of men deciding the fate of women. This morning, looking at the news, I thought my head would explode just like Trump claims Obamacare is exploding. Or was that implode? I'm pretty sure he claimed both. I want ALL young women to consider politics as a career. Women have to take charge. If there were a headcount of all the women in this country who have NOT been raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, suffered domestic abuse, or suffered economic inequality, would there be anyone to count?

Meanwhile, I've been taking care of business (taxes) and cooking ratatouille and making a salad from collard greens that a T'ai Chi Chih student gave me this morning.

And the best part? I'll be sharing all this goodness with friends while celebrating the demise of the Republican health care bill.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Poppies at Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura
My adult children and my grandchildren spent much of last week at my house. We climbed a hill to see these poppies. We went whale watching and saw at least 30 gray whales and several hundred dolphins. It is a glorious thing to survey the ocean around you and see dolphins in every direction. We kayaked; we walked on the beach and hunted sea glass, shells, and interesting rocks. We visited the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum and Planetarium. We ate out at a restaurant on the sand, had high tea on my patio on the newly refurbished teak furniture, and ate delicious food at my table. I can't think of a better lead-up to the first day of spring--all the love, conversation, and the sheer bounty of this life.

I know that spring can feel like a false promise, a let-down, a so-this-is-all-there-is, but not for me this year. Of course, perfection always eludes, but at this stage of the game I'm calling even that perfect enough.

Three of the tag-team kayakers. The other two were picked up by their mom and taken home for hot showers.

Even this bear looks happy.

Photos of sand castles in progress, in ruins, or perfect always make me happy

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 13, 2017

One Year Later

It was a year ago today that my mother left this world. I feel her presence inside of me--what she might say or do, how much she enjoyed her life on Earth, how much she loved it when family or friends came to visit us.

Family will be arriving tomorrow for a spring break visit; after that old friends will come from afar for  a visit in April, and after that, another friend. Life keeps delivering its pleasures and I am grateful for every joy, large or small.

I want to thank all of you who left your messages of condolence on my blog, or on Facebook, or by mail or phone a year ago. It meant a lot. We are all on this winding road together, and yet it can be easy to forget that. Thank you for reminding me.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Teak Project, Part 2

The table in the process of being sanded.

The finished project in the weird glow of the patio heater, six days after beginning. Wine for the crew.

And by day.  The remaining chairs have not been set out yet, but family vacation week is approaching! I'm also staining a "teak look" coffee table that needs a little more time.

After the rainy winter, time on the patio seems more beautiful than ever.

Looking toward the ocean

Pink water

The moon at sunset

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Teak Project

The first furniture I bought for my townhouse post-divorce was a barbecue and a teak patio set. I lived in the San Gabriel Valley then and with a little teak oil now and then, things went well.

The marine environment destroys everything here in Margaritaville. Hardware, doorbells, pruning shears left out for a mere couple of days. The previous owners here at my new place left a high end stainless steel barbecue on my patio that looked like this.

After 5 years year, and only a couple of previous treatments, the furniture looked like it needed to be sanded as well as oiled due to my neglect and a winter that gave us a lot of rain, so I called a professional teak restoration company. Hahahahaha. After a couple days of negotiations, I got the price down to 800 and something dollars. Hahahahaha.

With the help of a friend, a brand new orbital sander, and about 40 bucks worth of sandpaper, this is how things are going:

We disassembled the chairs so we could do a really good job. Left to right: the weather beaten, the sanded clean, and the re-oiled 

A stack of freshly oiled pieces in the morning light.

The dramatic before and after.

All but one chair is reassembled. Despite my careful note taking, it turns out that not every chair was assembled with the exact same hardware...there will be a trip to the hardware store today, and some improvising.  Stay tuned for pictures of the table.

Monday, March 6, 2017

You'll Want to Have What I Had

I had two glasses of the above concoction with some ceviche and chips last night.


Dan Paik came back from the dead, wearing a long red skirt over tight pants, a bolero, a kimono, and two hats perched at jaunty angles. He came bearing gifts for every birthday and holiday that he'd missed. In the dream, I didn't quite realize that he'd been dead, I thought he'd stayed away because  he'd broken up with me. What's all this? I asked of the dozens of colorful shoes, the chocolates shaped like animals, the watercolor paints. "It's all for you, baby," he said. The gift that beat all gifts was an immense curly-haired dog wearing an embroidered jacket that said flowers and candy in romantic curlicued script. "Is that his name?" I asked. Dan laughed and shrugged. All this while I'm thinking, uh-oh, what about Amado? 

Dan and I were sitting on the bed in my apartment and I could hear Amado whistling as he came up the stairs. I stood up to hug Amado, then turned toward Dan. "Guys, I've got some explaining to do," I said. They listened and there was some back and forth about what it meant to be dead. "It's time to go downstairs," Dan said. The three of us descended into the street and half of L.A. was standing there, necks craned upward. It was the night of the Bobbing Man, or maybe it was Ballooning Men. The sky was full of  primary colored life-size balloon men, some of them anatomically correct. When one of the endowed balloon men bobbed up and down in the evening breeze, a roar would rise from the crowd. 

Dan, Amado and I walked around in amazement. The sunset had lit  the sky on fire and torches lined the street. It wasn't long before we ran into my friend Paula and her sisters who had traveled from Arizona to witness the spectacle. I tried to explain about Dan and got confused, but Paula seemed to take it all in stride. We sat on a bench and talked, and my younger daughter who was still a young teenager came and lay across our laps and fell asleep. I thought about telling Paula that I might be leaving the Earth soon, that I felt like I was as tenuously tied to this life as one of the balloon men, but I didn't want to risk worrying my daughter, so I kept that thought to myself.

What the heck? But thanks for the visit, Dan Paik. It was lovely to see you. Coincidentally, it was my friend Paula, who appeared in the dream, that left the bottle of La Vida Bonita at my house.  What a pretty life, indeed.  But who is Amado?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Beach Report: Silver and Blue

Sailing the Silver Sea


 Willet Shepherd Girl
All of these photos look out to the Channel Islands National Park and the waters that surround them.
If you have any doubt about the impact of protecting these wild places, give a listen to Sylvia Earl's story HERE. It's story #3.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dystopian Literary Excerpt #2

Photo taken at the Women's March in Washington D.C.

From 1984:

".... the average citizen of Oceania never sets eyes on a citizen of either Eurasia or Eastasia, and he is forbidden the knowledge of foreign languages. If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate. It is therefore realized on all sides that however often Person, or Egypt, or Java, or Ceylon may change hands, the main frontiers must never crossed by anything except bombs."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dystopian Literary Excerpt #1 Brought to You by Margaritaville (because you might want a drink)

Fallen Wing

I've re-read The Handmaid's Tale. I'm now half-way through a re-read of 1984.

I find these readings oddly comforting. I think I'll be posting more.

From 1984:
"In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind is controllable--what then?"

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Morning Beach Report: A whale, found art, hearts, resisting, and survival

Nature imitates nature. A piece of wood resembling a whale's tale, seen a couple of weeks ago.

I heard it before I saw it. The breath like the Earth itself was breathing. When I looked up, knowing what it was that I'd heard, I saw the immense barnacled back disappearing into the water. I stood and watched for a moment and then hurried down the shore the way that the whale was traveling, but saw nothing more. I saw four whales near this same spot a couple of years ago.

There were pelicans too.

And these black birds sitting on the water. Sooty shearwaters? Storm petrels? I think I've tried to look this up before and was unable to come to a conclusion.

There was a lot of driftwood from the recent storms. It's a good thing I don't have a place to put it or I'd be dragging it home. As it is, the bowl full of beach glass is brimming. There was beach glass today too.

And there was found art:

Here's what it made me think of--this painting by Georgia O'Keefe:

There were remnants from Valentine's Day.

A rock commiserating.

Mr. Frowny Face. Do you see it?
And a heart made of stone.

We must take heart and harden our resolve, somehow remembering what beauty there is before us.