Dancing Class

Life

 

 

 

You get a chance to find a partner before the music begins.

Usually you are young and wide-hipped:

Mango ripe.

Slippery in the choosing.

Looking for wariness, bicep curls and safety

As one can be fooled by the scent of lust.

 

It’s life– then you dance:

It’s a hip bending back swaying errata series

And you wonder if you are making an impression.

Like the movie star ladies with heavy breasts

On the sidewalk in Los Angeles.

 

My mother says listen to the music.

Sit below men and look into their eyes so they are convinced

You believe in their strength and that you have none.

I sit below them listening and I see pouches of disappointment,

Eyes full of mistrust,

Memories of mothers like me,

And my hips are frozen: transfixed.

 

The music in life is temperamental.

I am a dancer

With no partner.

My hands are marked with large, fat veins

Transgressing each other.

Working so hard at refreshing me.

Sometimes, I push on one hoping it will back up,

Form a pool: an untapped source of joy

I might slide into for a time.

A kind of folding chair at the side of the room.

I want to be a bartender or maybe I don’t

In my next life I want to be a bartender. There is a particularly good one at Harry’ s Bar in Florence and I have his picture above my desk as my friend just sent it to me. His name is “Leo” and everybody adores him. He has a ready smile, a quick wit,  and a great martini. I loved meeting Leo when I went to Florence with my friend as I felt as if I were being introduced to his (my friend’s) parents and they liked me. Leo holds the key to the kingdom of disconnected travelers and locks and unlocks them as they arrive daily in Florence. People go to Harry’s just to see him and when they find him gone for an evening or a vacation break they are disappointed and often leave the bar to eat somewhere else. Imagine having that power! Leo hears everything that is going on in business, government and the personal lives of many who go there. Leo, as the saying goes, could really write a book! The interesting thing about being a good bartender is that you have to know the right combination of  listening to and divulging information. If this careful balance is off you will find yourself out of a  following. Leo must have learned this several years ago. I wonder why all the “Leo’s ” in the world are male? Are men better able to keep secrets than women?Are men better listeners? Yes and no are the answers in my book. Men are definitely better secret keepers though they are gossips and love a bit of tasty info about people they know. Women are better listeners as we can listen without needing to win. We listen without constructing our rebuttal  as the other person speaks.We listen as we are actually curious most of the time about what the other person has to say. Maybe we can learn something. maybe we can’t. I remember once many years ago sitting next to a guest at one of our dinner parties and having this man interrupt what I was saying to state, ” That is a pile of rubbish!” I simply stopped speaking and turned to him and asked, “Did you just say what I was saying was a pile of rubbish?” The guest seemed momentarily jolted out of his semi alcoholic haze and turned my way to stare. He said to me, ” I didn’t say that!” “Really ” I said, “I thought I heard those words.”. “Don’t be ridiculous! That was just an expression!” As I recall this man was the CEO of some mega corporation and about 65 at the time. It was my job to charm him so he would go home in good spirits. I was to be his  “Leo”. Now  maybe I wouldn’t like being a bartender as this is a tough role for me. I can do it for just so long. After a string of rubbish words from a male mouth I have to let some estrogen rip. It comes out in a soft voice like bee honey, treacle and syrup, a trap so well made not even the most canny male can escape incriminating himself. I don’t even remember the exact words I used  but I do remember the reaction of my male companion. He suddenly got more sober. He sat up in his chair and looked at me more intently. He said to me, ” I never meant to appear as if I were not interested in what you were saying.” I was astounded. This very powerful testosterone male was actually apologizing to me and seemed very genuine about it.  somehow I had penetrated his psyche so he heard me.This incident has remained in my mind for many years as it reminds me that if you learn to speak from your instinctive self and say what is true without blaming the other, interesting things happen. This was an interesting night for a number of reasons. I think it is a good thing to speak from the gut and the heart. People can’t argue with your truth. As a matter of fact, people identify truthful words through tone and expression instinctively and it makes them pay attention. If people had more of Leo in them the world might function more smoothly. Imagine if all the world leaders actually listened to one another instead of constructing a response that would rebut another point of view. We are schooled to debate in our personal and public lives. We are punished as children for not telling the truth and if we do, we are often punished for doing so. I wonder how we can learn to not only speak from our instinctive selves but to know what it is we really want to say: to know what we genuinely want and what we desire for our hearts to be full and content. I find the most challenging place to do this is in relationship with another person for we risk desertion. That is our deepest fear and our deepest desire: to be known. If we reveal our true selves and are abandoned we believe we might not be able to survive the pain. Leo never lets things get that far. Conversations have meaning but never go too far in terms of opinions or accusations. If all of us were more like Leo life might be easier. I respect what you have to say and I will listen. I am able to hear opinions that differ from mine  and I expect you to listen to mine. Maybe I won’t come back as a bartender but as a shrink in a Woody Allen film.

patience

I hate being patient. It is annoying and generally makes my skin itch. I can’t sit still and I find myself longing to eat junk food or smoke when I am trying to be patient. I am usually trying to be patient about something: weather, traffic, doctor’s offices, airports, men, daytime, nightime, anytime, restaurants, men, finding Rosie in the house, finding Rosie in the garden, finding Rosie in the car, finding peace, finding happiness, men, finding water, finding a place to stop on the highway, waiting for the stock market to go up, waiting for the stock market to go down, waiting in general anywhere, waiting for it to be cooler, waiting for it to be warmer, waiting for the rain to stop, waiting for it to rain, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the something that has happened to stop. Men.

I have a new attitude. I am really trying not to wait for anything or anyone so I have taken up knitting. I bought pure white yarn that is very fat and squishy and large wooden needles that make a soft clack as I knit. In actuality I am a terrible knitter. I never learned anything other than the in over out off ritual of childhood. This works very well. I pick up my knitting anytime I feel impatient. The scarf I am knitting is now so long I have to wrap it around my arms in order to work with it. This is very satisfying. I feel the weight of the scarf and sometimes wrap it around my neck and imagine I am in Alaska with Sara Palin discussing the merits of rimless glasses and borrowed designer clothes. I have never borrowed designer clothes so this is interesting to me. I ask Sara what she is really going to do with all her time now that she is no longer governor. I ask her how it felt to have all that attention and then have none. I ask her if she has trouble with patience. I ask her if she really does love her husband. I ask her if she believed in herself and her ability to run this country. I find this question the most interesting one. I am fascinated  with her apparent confidence and freedom with her life.

Back to knitting. I think most people would benefit from knitting. Instead of texting or fooling around on the computer people could knit. Knitting would definitely bring up the GDP as people could sell their wacky scarfs to people in Alaska. Sara said she would help. She’s a good natured girl despite those weird rimless glasses. So that’s what his blog is about: kntting. It helps pass the time when you feel life is going too fast and too slow at the same time. We are in a time like that now.

my blue heaven or heron

 

The Great Blue Heron

 

 

 

The great blue heron returned last night.

Flew in under the cover of darkness,

Folding his wings into an envelope of marsh and beach grass,

Waiting to allow me

The pleasure of his return

Until morning.

 

In the dampness of November

The heron’s message of surprise

Is a secret gift I tell no one about.

The heron knows me like no other

And he returns just when the night seems too long.

 

As I sip my coffee in my slippers on the lawn

The heron watches:

Deciding when he will show his great deep beak

And his broad blue wings above me,

Deciding when he will fish for me

Or reveal a sliver of sun on this gloomy day in the beginning of winter.

 

The heron knows he belongs south but he is a loyal bird.

Refusing to take to the air on time,

He is my guardian: my winged seraph,

The keeper of my pond boiling in the early morning

With the steam of the earth raising her young.

The heron is the first one that has known I need him.

Using cruise Control

 

 

Impending

 

 

 

Driving south on 101 past the silt of San Jose,

Leapfrogging around monster trucks and family vans,

The mountains drawn like an ovulation chart,

Beyond the flat bed valley,

And I’m testing cruise control.

 

Faster.

Slower.

“At any time you may exit cruise control by pressing on the brake pedal.”

I am proud to say I have driven 67.5 miles without using the brake

Often at great risk to myself, not to mention others.

 

A sign grabs my eyes at the side of the highway:

“Easy catch trout.”

I think, at first, it’s some sort of promotion.

Maybe Odwalla. They believe in philosophy

And truth in advertising.

Then I see it is a real place.

There’s a parking lot.

 

Many are stopping.

I almost hit a large, silver family van with eight adults inside

All appearing to be wearing the same beanie with a propeller on top.

I have to admit

I hit my brake.

I hate a cheater.

 

Imagine, I think,

No sport whatsoever.

What images come to mind.

Always an opportunist I think:

Easy catch love. No hooks, catch and release, no mouth wounds.

Easy catch money. Spend it on anything and your life will change.

Easy catch health. No guesswork or lengthy procedures.

And then, of course, easy catch death.

When the time is right just come on down and die.

Right there. Simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV.

 

 

Creation

Creation

 

 

 

She wants to hold his head in her lap and each hand holding a side pull it split-open

Precisely so each cerebellum would be encapsulated like a walnut inside a split shell.

Then she would hold up first the left side and then the right to her eyes so close she

could see what was black and what was right.

Then she would look into the tiny pineal gland of the future and take the pulse of

his darkness and test the depth of his wounds.

She wants to take his head off his body and replace it with one that looks just like

him and carry it home to put on the kitchen counter right between the flour and the sugar.

She wants to further examine him using the ear thing and the light and peer into his

feelings and his history of loyalty to pets and his willingness to brush her hair

until they both crackle.

Then she wants to choose which side she likes best and she wants to go to her linen

closet where, behind the pillowcases, she has other split brains.

She chooses the left side of practical abilities and from the right she chooses lust

but they don’t go together correctly

so she goes to a psychiatrist and asks him to

put them all back together because now it was a big mess.

She forgets what she really wants.

She confesses she longs for the way it was in the beginning.

Then she was back where she started.

Feeling lonely in nature, Normal?

My daughter asked me the other day why it was that when she is someplace really beautiful she feels lonely. I wasn’t sure how to answer that question as I agreed with her completely. I love nature and have found myself in a lot of incredible places but I often feel lonely iin these places. I am usually alone as I tend to wander off the beaten track when I have nothing to write about. I get up from my desk and look out the window, wonder if it is too early to swim or go to the gym, and then before I know it I am out the door. Sometimes I take Rosie and sometimes I know I am going to travel at light speed so I leave her under my bed where she will sleep happily for hours.I wander up trails I have no idea about. I drive down roads that have been calling out to me. I am an addict for a lovely sunset and it gets worse when there is a view attached to it. A sunrise can enchant me for hours.It’s hard to find enchantment in the world today. Most people are frightened about their lives, their jobs and their health. Enchantment is very important. I would like to be enchanted by a remarkable man and I believe that I will be some time soon.

Tonight is soft and gentle and Rosie and I are out at the beach where the noises of children playing in the lagoon filter in through the open windows.I am waiting for my friends to arrive for the evening. The day feels as if someone has stopped it. I am reminded of how I want to stop having expectations of people in my life: both new and old. For so many years I had a very critical internal voice who commented constantly on people in my life and what they did or said. It seems to me that I was never happy with any relationship but looked instead to what was missing  rather than what was there. Sometimes we want companionship so much we seek it from the wrong people: people who are not capable of being a good companion . This doesn’t make them evil or mean just not really interested in connecting with another. When I go on my outings in nature I often see others in pairs. Some of these pairs are walking togther with the same gait, dressed in a similar style, enjoying the same connection in nature. I have to admit, I look at these pairs with envy on some days just as I am envious of the pelican pairs I see out here at the beach. What I love about big birds is their loyalty to one another. If one bird can’t fly another goes down to the ground with her and waits for recovery. They never wonder when the next flock will come along for them to join, they wait until their friend is better or not.

I hope I can cure this problem of mine in this lifetime as I feel so joyous when I have no expectations and just stay in the moment. I find this practice harder that learning a handstand. That took me a year. This will take me a lifetime.

 

Bird’s Eye View of Flight

 

 

 

In the middle of his life.

He became a bird..

Hooked by a whooping crane

One morning in the slow fog of northern Florida,

Swept south to the keys,

Swinging over marshes like a circus act,

Distended by humility and wind

He was carried by the large crane who ate

Only on rainy mornings, mashing down fish still alive.

He was home-schooled in observation,

Exhalation, and weather prediction in crowds.

 

Being suspended in flight

Is actually comforting, he found.

He floated, held under his arms by the feet of the kind crane,

Hooking around him like handcuffs with padding.

The crane only  wanted company and to stretch out his legs.

The man had no control of anything.

There was music, loud and soft, in the beating of wings

And the whooshing of the inspirational air.

He slept through much of the trip.

It took a long time to be dropped off,

And suddenly he was on land, retired

In northern Florida.

 

Bathing

Vermont: Fall’s End

 

 Lying in a bath in Vermont in the early evening

With a small candle and a wet dog in the corner,

She wonders

If the man downstairs she came here with

Is as safe as the warm bathwater and the rain falling to music.

The window is divided into ticktacktoe squares

Misted from the heat.

 

In the warm bath she watches the oil and water

Play with one another

Breathing in lavender while she breathes out fear

Adding hot water every few minutes.

She watches her body appear

Through the soap and water letting her belly rise like a small mountain

And her toes peek back: as disembodied little villagers

Looking for supper.

 

Tonight there will be dinner and family to meet

They will bring magnifying glasses and notepads.

The man has begun to peel back her heart

And she practices putting it back together

just to make sure she can when he leaves

German Cars and their uses

 

Riding

 

 

 

Take me for a ride in your big German car.

The one where the windows slide up over the world,

And we glide all over the city, not talking.

So silently and smoothly as I sit in the leather molding, me like a Hapsburg princess

bowing and waving to my sidewalks.

Take me in your big German car to Soho

Where we can eat in places with names like countries that have abbreviated

Themselves into booths and red leather seats and shared dishes served by waiters

With hair that is curled into spires of cities yet unknown to me.

Turn on your woman who tells you where to go, how to navigate the world,

With a voice that is low from under the dashboard,

Almost guttural,

So strict you do it even when I ask you not to.

Take me in your car on the highway above and around and we can see the city

Lights and we glide along you and me with the resting arm place between us and

The purr purr of the great German machine telling me not to worry

Until morning.

There’s music to be heard from azure squares and the BBC world makes

Everything all right,

The proper perspective as

I braid my hair,

Polish my alpenrose,

Lower my lederhosen, while you drive us into the night.

Scoliosis: no one notices if you never walk away

When I say I have scoliosis people nod as if they know what it is. I can always tell the way someone looks at me if they really know what this is or think I am making a mountain out of a molehill. I hate whiners, myself, so I try not to mention this condition to anyone as it sounds wimpy to me. Having scoliosis means your spine is crooked and many of us end out having surgery somewhere along the path of life. Some of us do almost anything to avoid it and I fall in the latter category. The curve in my spine is so severe that some doctors believe it may be compressing my heart and compromising my lung function. I think they may be right about my heart as it has always been tender but my lungs seem just fine to me. Most of my life no one noticed this “deformity” as the surgeons tend to call it but I have always know it was there. It is a struggle between my spine and my spirit, a constant fight,  I have to put a lot of work into this fight to keep ahead of the curve, so to speak. It is , at times, entertaining particularly when shopping anda saleslady will tug and tug at the fabric of a dress in a vain attempt to make it fall evenly from my shoulders. I am grateful for my sturdy body that has carried me  this far in life but I find now that I must lie down each afternoon for an hour to let the law of gravity do its thing. I couldn’t have a job where I had to stand all day as after 15 minutes of standing I am exhausted. This morning I started to take a look at the list of things I had to keep in mind now because of my spine and I smiled wryly at myself. This list was growing longer as I got older but I had neglected to take a look at how my life was being affected by my disability. I met a young man not long ago who is the head of a lab at U C San Francisco and he researches spine abnormalities as well as tissue growth often using stem cell research as a basis to his work. He promised me that within 5 years there would be an intervention for scoliosis in utero which made me really happy. I think one of the hardest things for a parent i to see is their child inheriting something that will cause problems in their life. I watched a child of mine suffer through scoliosis surgery and occasional pain and wished I could do it for her. I felt guilty she had this condition. I think every parent feels this.  

When I read that Walter Chronkite had died this week I was inexplicably sad for a long time. I felt as if he was a good father for many  in this country anda very wise man. The calmness of his approach to even the worst news was reassuring to us all. I remember meeting him once and was surprised at his genuine interest in my life and his great sense of humor. I think Sundays are sad days for many of us. They represent the end and the beginning. No one feels as safe as we used to and no one knows how to get this feeling back. I think for me it is through connections with friends. Today I went for a hike with some old friends who are becoming better friends and I felt blessed to be with them in the peace of the California afternoon with the sun in the trees and the lake water glistening around the trail. Lake trails are like a natural labyrinth as a walk around lakes gives you a sense of completeness and finality. At the end you go home and have a bite to eat and feel as if the day has been worthwhile and the best thing about the experience is that is is free!

 Scoliosis

 At fourteen someone noticed I wasn’t normal.

My mother took me to New York.

I wore a blue suit and stockings with flats.

It was raining.

We went to a small townhouse with expensive steps

And there we met a serious doctor who had five and one half minutes for us.

She will never have normal children, he said

There are a lot of things that can be done

Why not come back in a few weeks for a brace,

These deformities are interesting to work on.

 

My mother drove us home in her rapid small car

Whistling in and out of highways.

Her pointy toe tapping the accelerator in two-fourths time.

She said, “Look!

When we got home, his bill is here already.

He must have sent it before he even met us.

You look all right to me.”

She had never seen me naked.

As a matter of fact, no one had.

 

Later, at 34, a doctor held up my spine X-Ray to a light box.

An invertebrate, let’s fix it, he said.

Instead I offered up my daughter.

8 hours later she’s straight.

Unconscious, sliced, chopped, hammered, over and over

they made her normal.

Rodded her up, steeled her vertebrae, stole bone from hip to use as glue.

If you leave her alone, she won’t breathe by the time she’s 30.

They told me.

 

I am fifty-four and I am breathing.

I am breathing like I never breathed before.

Filling my Hawaiian sounding air sac lungs.

My spine so twisted my ribs compress my heart.

I knew there must be a reason it seemed so sensitive to pressure.