July 12th, 2005
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I am not a hipster, though sometimes I find myself wanting to be.
My favorite sweater is fifteen years old and the elbows are wearing through. I don’t know what I will do when it is no longer wearable.
I like clothes that are old looking, worn in, used. Loved. I like taking what I have and putting it together in a new combination (green tshirt with brown 30′s bias skirt). My style might be refered to as “piecemeal”. I am still wearing a felt hat from the 80′s that has lost all of it’s shape, (in it’s former life it paid hommage to Duran Duran). I like to wear my hair in braids, socks are best striped. The bag I wear is chosen by my mood. Plaid for when I am feeling relaxed and lazy, leather satchel for when I am feeling literary, black rectangle for when I am feeling organized and business-like (not so often). I prefer my bags to be sewn by hand.
I don’t like tags, or labels. or logos.
Sometimes I rediscover a shirt I haven’t worn for a few months and wear it several days in a row.
Sometimes I wear the same jeans for a week.
A tube of lipstick lasts me for an entire year.
The person I am prefers to spend money on books rather than clothes. Proust over Prada. Lawrence over Lacoste. (I had to look those up).
I went to buy new jeans for my birthday and felt like an imposter the whole time as if people could tell I did not belong. Changerooms can be intimidating places. (I needed a lot of help from the salesperson to figure out the sizes, and I still have no idea what size I am. Things have changed drastically in the last few years.) I don’t like to listen to loud music when I am trying on clothes.
I feel safest if i have a book with me everywhere I go.
I feel unsafe without my journal.
My favorite boots could not be pinned down to any specific time or era. across time. anachronistic.
maybe I am anachronistic.
I think I would prefer to live in the 20′s and 30′s away from the machine of mass culture. In a way I have for the last few years. It scares me a bit to be thrown back into it. I don’t need billboards, or box stores, or malls. Give me straw hats, long skirts, trousers. (how come no one uses the term trousers anymore?)
I don’t need tv, or cell phones, or stuff.
I would rather get my food from the person who grows it. Or have the person who made my shoes be the one who fixes them when there are holes. Has anyone noticed that there are no repair shops anymore?
I used to watch Oprah everyday but I haven’t for the last couple of years because I find her to be extremely contradictory. Seems to be more about shopping than living.
I have my own contradictions.
I like candy.
I feel compelled to read the headlines on the trashy magazines in the checkout aisle even though I don’t want to.
I used to wish that my boobs were bigger (in my 20′s) but I don’t anymore.
some days I wish I was cooler, but maybe it’s o.k. that I’m not.
(the above confessions are subject to change.)

July 11th, 2005
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(more…)

July 6th, 2005
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Yesterday I came home to find someone had painted a daisy on my front walk. It was the perfect gift. When I went out on my walk I found them in several other places, (on stop signs.) The world could use more daisies.
I’ve been sketching random things in my journal again. I didn’t realize I was missing it. As soon as I started I felt a wonderful sense of relief. (This was my Uncle Rupert’s camera.) I don’t know what it is about drawing in this way that is so fulfilling, (I am not particularly drawn to representational work.) I think it is more of a meditation, sitting quietly for ten minutes, contemplating shapes. I love working with watercolor, swooshing the brush in the water, letting the paint roll around on the paper. I like looking at it when I am done and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Makes me feel like the artist I wish to be, or maybe the artist I am.
“It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.” ~e.e. cummings

July 5th, 2005
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One of my greatest joys in living in a rural area is the daily jaunt to the post office. There is something about making the trip to the mail, a quick seven minute walk, that adds to your anticipation. You have much more time to think about what might be sitting in that box waiting, time to feel good about what your are about to send off. Your packages and letters traveling around the world, going to places that you currently cannot go but wish to. Energy flitting about the continents.
Today I fit my key into the little box, number 411. It is in the top right hand corner of a wall of little boxes. I always liked the corner, you never have to look at the numbers. I opened the small door and for the first time noticed the marks left on all of the mailboxes. The light was hitting the wall in a certain way, causing the marks to stand out. Marks left by dirty hands, finger prints, grease smudges, marks left by key rings hitting the boxes as people shut the doors quickly after retreiving the mail. They were all different and told a bit of a story. I like thinking about what they were doing. This person has been working in the garden and just popped in on her way to the hardware store. This person was working on a car. This person is elderly and scrapes their key along the side of the box trying to find the keyhole everytime. This person was eating chips and left a grease smudge and some crumbs.
Like a new kind of language that only a person who cleans post office boxes on a regular basis might notice.
Or someone who was afraid of germs. (which I’m not thankfully or it could have been a problem).
Or maybe someone who is looking at things in a different light for the first time.

June 22nd, 2005
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I sometimes hesitate to write about more of the health issues here, partly because I am tired of writing about it, and partly because I feel it is not very poetic. But maybe this IS the poetry, the everydayness, the real details of a life. That feeling of your world stopping for a moment when something really important comes up and serves to reshift things in a way you didn’t expect. I always have the same feeling when a big life change happens (illness, death, loss), it is difficult to put it into words. It is as if time has stopped for you and no one else. I am always very aware of the rest of the world going on around me but I am not in it. I am watching the world and become tuned into the smallest details, I look at people as if they are ants going about their daily tasks, and the tasks seem strange to me. The cutting of lawns, going to the dentist, office work. absurd.
I write about the health issues here because I think in our culture we do not talk about these things enough, the things that we ALL go through at some point. And we are all learning as we go. We heal with each other’s stories. I write about it in case some of you are going through a similar situation.
So the update…the meeting with the surgeon went well (though extremely brief. Contrast that with the three hours spent with the accupunturist who asked hundreds of questions about my life, my personality, what gives me joy, what makes me sad, etc.) The surgeon confirmed that the fibroid is not cancerous, so I am very relieved by that fact. (Just to clear up some confusion, I have two different types of cysts in one breast, a mass of normal cysts which had grown in the last few months, and a larger fibroid cyst which I have had for many years, which the surgeon said IS a tumour. So the fibroid is something that has to be watched because they can change.) I have dealt with this for many years now, but this was the first time my doctor suggested a surgeon and that was scary. What I have learned is that this seems to be a normal thing with a lot of women. The question seems to be ‘when is a breast lump not just a breast lump?’
So I will keep on with my own healing regiment. I will eat good food, and I will live as fully as I can. And I will go back to my own routines as we all do. The paying of bills, the phone calls to people, buying food, the moving of the body. And someone else who may be going through their own change will see me through the window of a car for a split second, going about my busyness, and think it strange. It is.
I would like to do something every day that is contrary to the ‘routine’.
Today that means a picnic in the woods.

June 18th, 2005
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A rainy saturday morning I sit on the porch in my pyjamas. I have the thought that I should get dressed and then decide against it giving myself the treat of idleness. Idle attire. That is what saturday mornings are for, particularly rainy ones. Ella Fitzgerald’s voice wafts through the open door of the house and I am thinking that this is the best way to listen to jazz music. Sitting outside smelling the rain smells, and hearing it move through the house, around tables and chairs, through doorways and out into the rain. It feels secondhand, antique, the way an old stereo system sounds as it plays a record. Like an echo. Old houses were meant to hold jazz music, they were meant to have it move through them, shifting the thick wooden beams that hold it together. It is what keeps them alive, stops them from falling to the ground. This old house lives for it. It always feels happier with music from the 20′s and 30′s.
I watch as a hummingbird with an irridescent green head and bright flourescent orange cheeks drinks from the red blooms of a flowering shrub. It is a mere three and a half feet from me. I sit stiffly staring at it for several minutes, so rare to see them this close up. They are like large bees, wings making noticable buzzing sounds. How lucky i feel.

June 12th, 2005
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I am here. Where is here. Here is the cool weather of california, the emotional release after a session of accupuncture, time visiting with family. Here is me needing some alone time. So I retreat to the journal for a few minutes. I read the first chapter of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and it makes me teary. (the main character is caregiving for a mother who is dying of cancer. I was warned ahead of time that it would be a hard read for me, hitting close to home. But sometimes it is helpful to see our own lives reflected back to us, to see our own grief, there are things that I forgot about the process of watching someone die.)
I went to see an accupuncturist in Berkeley for the first time last week in an attempt to heal a mass of cysts in my right breast. My doctor recommended surgery to have them removed but I want to try other options first (assuming they are not cancerous), and at some level to try to understand why they are there. I want to believe in the body’s ability to heal itself. Anyone who has had a scare of this sort (I have talked to so many women now with the same situation) will understand the fears that come up and the conflicting opinions of doctors/friends. There appear to be two camps, 1) the “get it OUT NOW” group, and the 2) ‘this is very common’ do not worry camp. I am doing my best to sit quietly with it, hear what my intuition has to say. The beautiful thing to come out of it thus far, (as is common with these things), is the reminder to ‘come back to the body’, to give it some needed love and attention. Something that we all forget while in a state of perfect health.
The accupuncturist said some things that surprised me. He placed his fingers on my wrist in several formations, sat attentively for a few minutes and told me some things that were difficult to hear.
“Are you a person who takes shortcuts often?” he posed. “Yes”, I responded reluntantly, eyes turned to the floor. I brought them up again to a shelf that held several small ceramic Buddha’s, all laughing, tiny robes hanging non chalantly over their round little bellies. For a moment I felt like they were laughing at me. “It is costing you”, he said in a serious tone, eyes looking directly into mine. I swallowed and took a deep breath. I think I knew that but didn’t want to admit it to myself. My need to push through things so that they are quickly finished overtakes me, the end result of completion often more important than the finished product. Such is the way of the human ego.
Patience. I will work on that one. So many things to work on.
But there is an ocean of gratitude that creeps in. I feel healthier physically than I have in many years, I have use of my legs, my brain, my heart, my fingers. I will spend some quiet time everyday to send love to my body, and to my breast. In time I will heal.
Tomorrow we board a plane.

June 5th, 2005
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I am deeply immersed in the timeless world of travel, or rather visiting which is what I have been doing for several days now. I have officially lost all sense of how long I have been doing this, four days feeling like twelve. Time is a blur of dinners, and lunches with friends, a series of strange beds and children, new dogs and beer at the pub. A drive through my favorite city, over the golden gate bridge, through Sausolito, Mill Valley, and a picnic at Muir Beach. All of this activity has caused my husband to come down with a nasty kind of flu-like illness, so he is now on the couch in an attempt to sleep off the dreaded bug.
I have been sitting in the yard immersed in Pam Houston’s “Cowboy’s are my Weakness” a recent purchase from a used bookstore. My dear Christian Kiefer, whom we are staying with is friends with Pam, so I have been receiving little glimpses into her interesting and adventurous sounding life, (I am careful not to make assumptions about how an author lives, there is a tendency on the part of readers to idealize people and their situations). Reading her gives me more reason to document the little happenings of my life, and shape them into stories (all too often I question my ability in this realm). I think good writers have the gift of valuing their own unique perspectives on the world, instead of worrying about whether or not a story is interesting. A tin can can be interesting if viewed by attentive and thoughtful eyes.
I received a gift from Mr. Kiefer of a copy of “Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey”, illustrated by the incredible Roger Duvoisin, who I am now researching, (he wrote and illustrated the famous kid’s book “Petunia”.) It begins with an inscription which I wrote on the first page of my favourite new leatherbound journal (an early birthday gift from my husband):
“Every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the friends of him who writes it. They alone take his meaning, they find private messages, assurances of love, and expressions of gratitude, dropped for them in every corner. The public is but a generous patron who defrays the postage. Yet though the letter is directed to all, we have an old and kindly custom of addressing it on the outside to one. Of what shall a man be proud, if he is not proud of his friends?” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

May 16th, 2005
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I spent Sunday purging my studio. It was long overdue. Possibly years overdue. I went through all of the hidden things that you don’t see anymore, those things you have been carrying around for years and suddenly look at them and say, “why have I been keeping this?” (some examples, lego, crackle varnish, six different rulers, eight copies of tearsheets from a job done eight years ago (one that you can’t stand to look at), a sewing kit full of art supplies that has sentimental value but never gets opened.) One thing I have learned for myself is that if i don’t see it, I don’t use it. And I don’t believe in having anything in my life that I don’t use. At one point I found myself overwhelmed, surrounded by piles and piles of ‘stuff’, with that feeling of “what do I do next?”
I pulled out an old oil paint box from when I was in art school. One of those plywood cases that still had that wonderful slightly acidic smell of turpentine. I opened it up and proceeded to throw out six tubes of paint that had become mummified. I looked at the box and put it in the “garage sale” pile. I started thinking about my daily walk through Chinatown to art school, arms weighed down with my tool box of art supplies, drawing board, and paper in a large black leather portfolio. Portable. I could create anywhere. I loved opening my box and looking at all of my supplies, my favourite pencil with the soft lead, kneadable eraser that I shaped into animals, new brushes, scissors, the tools of creation. How did this simple box morph into an entire room filled with containers of things that I don’t even use? I suppose I know the answer to that, the irony here is that when you are in art school you long for a studio that is all your own, one that you can fill with blank paper, canvas, and endless tubes of paint. You long for a space that will be covered in colourful splotches, never having to clean up fully because you are an artist! Which is great, but I felt it was missing something. Simplicity maybe. Part of me wonders if the studio thing has been more about me wanting to feel like an artist. I love my space and need to be alone to create, but lately feel weighed down by the hoarding. (Not surprising as I’m thinking about travelling soon.)
I pulled the box out of the “garage sale” pile. And then I did something crazy. I filled it with all of the tools that I use mindfully when working. I filled it and glued little quotes to the sides, I put in pictures of things that inspire me, I wrote my name on the front of the box. After an hour I was completely obsessed with this paring down, what do I really need?
As an artist I find I do much better when I only have a few things to choose from as opposed to hundreds. This goes against what we are told in our culture, that more is better. Many times when I have limitations there is less of a tendency to get overwhelmed and take on the “whole” of the project.
“Limitation is what differentiates a flood from a lake. In the making of things, limitations allow you to choose from something rather than everything.” ~Corita Kent
The box gives me a simplified structure, a framework. There are five pencils, not twenty five.
And then I got rid of almost everything else, all of the tubs of paint that I don’t use, all of the old brushes, all of the mediums and irridescent paints. And it felt amazing. I love everything in the box. And I know there may be a time when I want to paint large again, and then I will get a new set of paints for the job.
But right now I feel so much lighter.

May 9th, 2005
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So many thoughts swirling around my brain this morning. How do I calm it enough to let them out?
A weekend of heavy talks, warm sunny days, running, long walks (to a place where a friend still lives, though not in his body form anymore), and a sharing of secrets with women.
Women bond by bearing their souls to each other, showing their wounds.
Mother’s day is always a bit heavy for me, though I have not liked to admit this before. “no I’m fine, really. It’s just another hallmark holiday.” But there are flowers that go unbought, and sad feels. And my girlfriends feel bad about talking about their day with me. But it is good to talk about it.
And it feels good to be asked, “how are you doing?”
I was honest this time.
A sentence by the powerful Jen Gray has been sitting with me this morning. She wrote:
“I’m afraid of not living this life the way my soul desires to.”
So many years of talking about being daring and courageous, wanting to jump into my dreams with both feet. But talking and doing are different things. When it comes to really going to a new place, I start feeling terrified by the reality of it all. Can I really do it?
Sometimes my perception of myself and the reality of myself are two different things. I so badly want to be this worldly, adventurous traveller, pursuing foreign lands, taking in the world with all of my senses like an Enid Blyton character. But the real me feels safer looking at it from the comfort of my house, afraid to venture out for fear of change.
For a long time I have said that I would like to experience living in a foreign culture, at least once in my life. Something that would shift my perception of things forever, as these things are apt to do. It is so easy to view the world from one standpoint, we become rather one sided over time. How often I have spoken about wanting to push myself out of this. And then you reach an age where you question, will I ever do it? If not now when? Life is so very comfortable with what I know. Who would I be in a different place? Would I be able to create in the same way? What if I don’t like the person I become?
I will never know unless I try.
I am thinking about moving to Spain for a year. More than thinking really, planning.
I have nothing to lose, but I am scared. The thing is, I will jump off the cliff fear in hand. I have done it before in different ways and survived.
A powerful woman said to me yesterday, “You will emerge finding that well of strength that comes from inside. That is with you always, and sometimes it is hard to find at first but it IS there.”
I believe her. Now I must prove it to myself.
I have written many times in my journal, “Trust yourself, you are much stronger than you think.”
“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”
“What is that?” asked Alice.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.
“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.
from Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, 1982


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