Friday, January 28, 2011

Real Estate Queen

In the dream I’ve bought a house. Its paint job is the color of the “flesh” crayon —but I can change that, I think. Inside it’s just plain weird, but in sort of a good way. The sellers are middle-eastern, perhaps, and they’ve gone nuts with mosaic type effects in all the wooden surfaces. The kitchen floor is wavy tiger stripes of different woods. There are actual tiger-in-the-jungle murals composed of  wood on a couple of the kitchen cabinets. Other patterns, too—harlequin and checkerboard, but those are more muted, and it’s all so weird and exotic that it might actually work if we can just get rid of the tigers, I think. 

I want to show the house to my friends, so they follow me through the hills in a separate car to get there. I’ve seen these hills in other dreams. They wind around and around, and there are mansions tucked away where you can barely see them, but I always get lost. I’m lost again, and I’ve lost my friends so I get out of my car and walk to a high point on a little path that turns out to be someone’s yard. “Hello,” I call to the man I see below me. "I’m lost, but I’ve bought a house somewhere around here.” The man and I talk for a minute, but I can't remember what we said.

Despite being in the hills, my house is on a wide street. There’s some kind of  plateau around here—if I can just find it. When I look over the edge from the path, I see Tina and the rest of my friends puled over to the side of the road standing outside their car. I know she’d like to get un-lost because she probably wants a cup of coffee. I call down to her, “On the very bottom shelf of my freezer, there’s a large zip-lock bag. It’s got some Starbucks Christmas Blend in it,” I say. And then I figure they'll get back to my place on their own. I want to go to my new house.

Finally I find it. There are four or maybe even five bedrooms. I choose the one with an east-facing window. C. and M. won’t want the sun waking them, I think. Now I’m so excited that I get some of the things I've packed into my car and begin to move in, but then it occurs to me that we haven’t actually closed the deal. We’ve only made an offer. I don’t think of this until I’m about to set my jewelry box in the room. I think about hiding it in a drawer, and then I realize the sellers are only leaving some of the furniture--not all of it. When one of the daughters of the seller appears, I greet her. She’s thin with black hair and has a hijab pulled off her head and resting on her shoulders like a cowl. When she smiles I see that her two front teeth are green porcelain outlined in gold. It’s off-putting at first, but I get used to it. The green is almost translucent and I begin to find it beautiful. I tell her I’m jumping the gun, but I’m so excited about the house, and I hope she doesn’t mind. She doesn’t seem to mind at all. Soon I’m puttering around in the room again and find a religious cloth of some sort. Woven in blue and black. There are symbols and maybe the Blessed Virgin. Ooh. I hope they leave that, I think. I’m more and more excited about this place. The floors are beautiful with all their colors of wood. And my room has a curving built-in couch. It faces the windows and the bed is set above the rest of the room on a platform. It's a beautiful place. I've got to call Bob (my real estate agent) and close the deal.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Notes from the Treehouse

As I lay in bed with the man who loves me, light poured into his kitchen as the sun lifted its head over a far hilltop and settled itself just above the hill he lives on. The Treehouse (my name for his place) feels combustible in the pre-coffee hours of the morning, but we were safe in his dark narrow bedroom I call "The Bunker." I need a bunker these days. "I can't forgive him," I told the man who loves me, turning the conversation to Mr. Ex after we'd discussed a recent betrayal by a friend of mine. I was wounded by my friend, but we'd talked about it. She apologized. I forgave. Chapter closed. Happier pages await in our story. Not so in the three-and-a-half-year divorce saga with Mr. Ex.

Yesterday the barrage of emails from my attorneys left cartoon character dollar signs imprinted on my eyeballs. We're into the land of six-figures now. Spent in the struggle to get my half of the community property. Thirty years of marriage. A third of it with begged and borrowed furniture, our first meals cooked in a donated and dented electric frying pan. I put him through UCLA Law School. Supported him with love and money. I want to hate myself for staying home and raising our daughters and trusting him, but it's hard to hate the memory of that. So I hate him, the way he Bernie Maddoffed me. The way he secretly plotted and schemed for months to leave us and then dropped his bomb just before M. left for college. Not even the courage to let her know before she committed to a school far from home. I hate him for delivering his message of doom by cellphone to C.---a thousand miles away when she'd just been home and he could have told us all when we were together. I hate him and his ruthless conniving Little Missus who, in my mind, deserves to have her family destroyed. I hate him more with each passing day and dollar.

"Something could happen that might change everything," said the man in the bunker. "If he gets sick, say." Oh, there could be a deathbed reconciliation, I suppose. But I don't really see myself in that scene. Even if my daughters are there,  I see a hole as big as a bomb crater. A hole with years lost. Years that can never be found.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dreams, Real Life, and Writing

A couple of weeks ago (about a month after I started going to therapy) I began to feel as if I'd had surgery-- like some poisonous little thing had been snipped out, and I was all sewn up and tucked in for a long recuperation. A little later I began to imagine my situation as an untangling. Somehow my  sense of wellness and my view for my future had gotten knitted into the same garment as the financial settlement of my divorce, and now we'd pulled the whole thing off the needles for a thorough unravelling. I still really, really want to get my half of the joint assets, but it don't feel like I'm wearing it all the time.

Then Sunday I went by myself to a poetry reading in Santa Monica. My friend Sharon Charde had come all the way from Vermont to read with a group of other poets who'd all been published in Rattle. Somewhere on the 10 West the muse slipped into the passenger seat unannounced--not comfortably settled in exactly, but an idea or two rose up out of somewhere, and it occurred to me I should jot a note. I don't really jot down notes anymore, I thought. So I didn't bother to rustle around and find the pencil and the post-its I keep in the center console.

But there were more ideas, and finally during the poetry reading intermission, I pulled my index card notebook out of my purse and wrote something down.

And the dreams. I'm having dreams and remembering them. My therapist, who's trained in Jungian dream analysis, listens to me while I read my written record of my dreams, and then she reads them again herself, and we discuss them. When I was growing up in Iowa imagining that I'd meet my one true love and stay married forever, I'd never have predicted that 40-some years later I'd be divorced and dreaming about my ex and telling the dreams to a therapist and feeling better about everything.

I keep dreaming about light.

And I've had two dreams about cats--cats that I, at first, thought were other animals, and then, Presto! The rabbit turns into a cat.
The fish turns into a cat.

I hope I'm turning back into a writer.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


In the dream, my son and his wife T. live in a long low rambling house a few miles from a river. The house is a rendez-vous point where I often meet my aunt and uncle who have a boat they take out on the river. Or sometimes I use the house as a jumping-off point to drive to the river and visit them.

My aunt and uncle like to barbeque, and they want to cook burgers for all of us--my son, T. and their kids. I figure they'll bring their Coleman grill and some charcoal, but instead they arrive in their station wagon with the burgers all cooked. They pull them out of a cooler in the back--already on paper plates. It's not what I expected, but it works.

Another time, I go fishing on the river and catch a big orange fish. I bring it back to the house and later when I go to look at it, I see it's not a fish at all. It's a tabby cat with a gash in its side that looks a bit like a gill. It's still alive, and it looks as if I can nurse it back to health. "I didn't know it was a cat," I tell T. I'm worried it might have fleas, and now maybe there are fleas in the house, but T. doesn't seem upset about it at all.

Later she and I go shopping in a big warehouse. There's household stuff there. Cleaning supplies and light bulbs and stuff like that. It's dark in the warehouse. They keep the lights off because of the heat and turn them on section by section when needed. T. and I wander apart, and I befriend a clerk and walk across the parking lot with her to the employee lounge. I have my cart full of stuff with me which feels a bit awkward because I haven't paid yet. The clerk and I talk about travel--how there are so many places she wants to go. She's married and very pretty with long brown hair that swishes across her back when she walks. She's forty. "You're young," I tell her. After her break we walk back to the store together, and I feel a bit guilty that I've gotten separated from T. My son is there to pick us up, and they are looking for me.

Before I can go I have to load the wooden rocking horses into the cart that I've gotten for the kids. Somehow I've managed to carve designs into them, and they're nicely done. One of the designs is a sort of swastika, and I feel obligated to explain to the proprietor of the store that before it was appropriated by the Nazis, the swastika was a Native American symbol. The proprietor likes my work, he tells me. The carving is expertly done, he says, and he likes the piece of iron work that I've designed, too. No one questions how it is that I've come to this store to buy these things that I've made. We load them into the cart and roll to the car.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dear Mr. Ex

Dear Mr. Ex:

I have spent this Friday evening actively loathing you.
The money I have dispensed on attorney bills trying to get you to finish up our financial affairs is now an amount too terrifying to utter.
The brain power I have given over to the rage and grief at the way you have treated me is a creativity-devouring, heart-shredding monster.
Someday that monster will devour you and spit out your bones one by one. I will gather them up and hang them in my tallest tree as wind chimes. The sound will remind me that you're gone, and I will dance.

The Performance

I'm back in Mr. Ex's house again. But he and the Little Missus have moved. They're living in some kind of luxury apartment with a plaza and city lights outside. Directly across the plaza is a theater with a hot new show, and I have four tickets. I'm not sure who is supposed to go with me. M. is there, but she seems to be babysitting for her dad's Kiddo who's stretched out on the sofa table next to a lamp that's teetering and about to fall. Everyone but me is oblivious to the peril--to both the Kiddo and the lamp. I'm on edge. What the hell is the Kiddo doing? He could get hurt. I'm on edge about the tickets too. They cost a fortune, and we had plans to go--at least M. and I did, but no no one's budging. I'm upset. I have to go back across the plaza anyway. I left my credit card and three twenty dollar bills at the pricey restaurant where M. and I had lunch. For some reason we were in a hurry when we left and the Maitre d' is waiting for me to come back. Finally I announce I'm leaving, and off I go alone.

Standing on the corner as I pass are Mr. Ex and the Little Missus and a half-dozen of their uber-couture-let's-wear-all-our-money-on-our-backs friends. The Little Missus has a new haircut--a curly bob and it's hanging in her eyes. When she sees me she covers her head with her shawl. I ignore all of them and rush first into the restaurant to sort things out there and then into the lobby of the theater. Having four tickets is a hassle, and I'm embarrassed that it's just me when I hand them to the usher. But once I'm seated, I realize I'm in the play so the extra tickets are the least of my worries. This piece of theater is something new. Part improv and part scripted. An audience member  gets put into the play each night--and tonight it's me. My seat is near the set and a spotlight is focused on me when I have something to say. I'm a wife in the play, and my husband is played by my old boyfriend, Billy, who has decided to take an acting job even though he's an award winning writer now in real life. There's stress in our marriage--our pretend theater-piece marriage.

Or maybe the stress is between Mr. Ex and me.
Real life and the play get mixed up at this point in the dream.

Billy The Husband is sick or he's an addict while Mr. Ex has to have some sort of surgery that is supposed to be minor but isn't. There are letters on the top shelf of a living room armoire addressed to me in the event of my husband's death (whoever he is--Billy or Mr. Ex,) and I wonder if the Little Missus knows that her dying husband is writing to me with his last wishes.
Somehow I survive the First Act.

During intermission, I offer to babysit for my friend Elizabeth's boys so she can see the rest of the play. They are little boys--maybe  5 and 3, and there's a special room that the usher tells me to take them to where they can be put to bed. The room is raked like an Elizabethan stage and the floor is padded. There are two antique beds that look like they've come out of theater storage. I get the boys settled in a corner and cover them up. They are  wearing matching sets of pajamas, but they're uneasy. They miss their mom. Still they seem receptive to me. I'm trying hard to make them happy.  I'm fixing them up a night light but it can't be too bright because there's an actor in the room trying to sleep before his next entrance. At last I settle on a flashlight that I rig  up by clamping it to the drawer of a large desk. The drawer is full of things that a lighting technician might use--gels and gel frames, a wrench. The flashlight projects the night sky onto the ceiling, and the boys are suffiently comforted to let me leave.

When I enter the theater, the show is not in progress. There's  a warm up act or some sort of improv going on. When I arrive the audience begins to murmur. They seem excited that I'm ready to begin, and then it's silent. They are waiting for the Second Act. Lights up. Billy The Husband enters. "You look like fuck-all," I say. "You're a fucking addict, and  I don't care who knows it." Billy The Husband looks awful. His honey-colored curls are dirty, and there are immense dark circles under his eyes.  I begin to cry and the audience gasps. We are all suffering.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year's Inventory

At ten days into the new year, I thought it might be time to see how I did on the resolutions I made the previous two years.

Last Year's Resolutions were based on the verse my daughter M. has tattooed on her wrist.: 
To wonder at beauty
stand guard over truth
look up to the noble
resolve on the good

I think it's the first thing I've been the best at. Beauty, it seems to me, is everywhere. If my eyes are open and I'm paying attention, there's always something to wonder at.

As for the truth, I try to think it and say it. And write it.

The noble, when one can find it, is easy to look up to.

As for resolving on the good, I suppose the phrase has a couple of interpretations. I don't always see the good in a given situation. I'm prone to complaining about the bad part of things. The downside often captivates my attention.

In 2009 I resolved to:
1) finish my MFA---check! 
2) keep in touch with friends---I don't think I did particularly well with this one. In fact, I completely failed completely in some cases.
3) work harder at what I need to learn---My brain still has a lot of teflon-coated spots.
4) tell my children I love them every time I see them and in every phone conversation---More often than not, I succeed at this. It's really not hard to remember.
5) Call my mother more often and visit her at least 4 times a year---I only made it to the east coast 3 times in 2009. But one of those visits when on for weeks because my mother suffered complications when she had a tumor removed from one of her lungs. I did better in 2010 with 5 visits.

This year I resolved to say thank you whenever it's due and to be more attentive to my friends. I started on New Year's Eve by giving the friends I saw that night a bookmark I made. The message I wrote on it is this:

 I raise my glass to you, and on my lips are sighs of thanks.
Thank you for the tea and roses, for red wine and your company, for beer in green glass bottles--in your living room by the fire, in the shade of your patio, walking next to you on a path as parrots call overhead.
Thank you for the phone calls and invitations and patience and words of encouragement or for just listening.
I believe fervently in love as a force beyond all imagining. I believe I have been borne across deep rivers in your arms.
In 2011 I will call you more often than you call me. I will cook, lay feasts upon my table and bid you to eat. I will fill your glass as you have filled my heart.

I hope to have a little dinner party every month or so. Or a bigger party. 
We've got to drink up this champagne.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I'm over at  SMARTLY today.

It's not about a dream. No oceanside houses or handsome men or sexy shoes.
It's about real life.
Don't read it if you don't want to.
But it could be a perfect New Year's post.  In 2011 don't become the person you don't want to be.

Oh--and Happy New Year. From that peaceful place in the bottom of my heart.  Really.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Bad, Bad Nanny

I'm obsessed with dreams right now. My dreams to be more specific. Why I'm having them and remembering them when for years I awoke feeling that I had dropped into a cavern in the center of the earth when I slept--or that I hadn't really slept at all--just lain there all night almost asleep, but not quite.

I tried to dream a dream for my friend Elizabeth last night. A dream of something light and healing for her and her daughter Sophie. All I managed was a setting that would be perfect for them--a fabulous beach house on a rocky cliff that dropped to the sea. Elizabeth sometimes says Sophie is like a mermaid or a selkie because she always seems better by the ocean. There were tide pools in my dream. A path. A wooden platform at the bottom for sunbathing and a ladder bolted to the rocks for climbing out.

I was a nanny in this house. One of two nannies because I needed time off to attend something that was very much like the MFA program in creative writing that I graduated from last year. Sometimes though the other nanny and I were both in the house together tending to a little girl and a little boy. And both of us were having  affairs with their father. The physical attraction I felt for this man was intense. We couldn't pass one another in the hallway without groping. If we both ended up at the refrigerator at the same moment, we'd stand there with the door open, the cool air and the light bathing us while we kissed with one hand on the carton of milk. He was tall and trim and movie star handsome. Straight sandy-colored hair with a craggy complexion. Not someone from my real life.

When I went off to write, I spent a lot of time walking around with a friend. A short skinny man with glasses and hair that fell across his eyes. We walked with our arms around one another, talking and  adoring each other platonically, and there was something we were worried about, but I'm not sure what. I have no idea who this man is either.

When I returned to the house, I came back with a poet I know named J. V.  J. V. was wearing a dark business suit and a tie. He went crazy with happiness when he saw the house. We walked along the cliffs, the wind blowing his black hair so it stood straight up from his forehead. He laughed and laughed because the beauty of the place made him happy. So happy he  ran down the steep slope to the water and jumped in business suit and all. I went down to the water by a more gradual route and slipped in too. We paddled around in the waves and climbed back to the house drenched.

One thing I know about J.V. in real life is that he's terrified of flying--like me. Once I gave him my instructions:  Hit the bar as soon as you get to the airport. Also bring your own little bottles of booze--the 3 oz. size that you can fit in your one-quart zip-lock bag. After you go through security, buy your mixer. Then you can fix your drinks on the plane without having to wait for the cart.

Three different men in this dream. An affair. Children. A house by an ocean. A refrigerator. A carton of milk. A ladder. A platform. A job.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Long ago I had powerful dreams that proved to be accurate premonitions. I dreamed my father died--that he had a heart attack while I was away at college--and he did. I had a series of  negative dreams about a college acquaintance I eventually lived with for a while in L.A--rather disastrously.

Then for years there was a dream drought. Now the dreams are coming like the rain.

Two nights ago I dreamed I was at a party with my daughter M.'s high school basketball team. "Where's M's dad?" her friend Niki asks me. We're in a gym and there's dance music and flashing party lights. I have to shout over the din. "He left me for a younger woman," I say. We're surrounded by  a crowd of people--basketball players, teachers, parents. A few feet away, M. is standing in a brightly lit area, and I see she's holding a glossy Christmas card with color photos. There's a big headshot of Mr. Ex's little boy with his name under it. Across from this picture is an empty box inscribed with "HD xx 2012." I puzzle over the symbols. Another baby, I think. Huge Dumb Girl. His Daughter. Harriet something....they're naming the baby Harriet? She will arrive in 2012.

But it's only 2011 now.
Happy New Year, Everyone!