Friday, March 27, 2015
Selected Haiku (1996-2004)
The sun is low now.
Our shadows are giants.
Soon all will be shadow.
The presence of God.
In the tunnel of birdsong
a locked seal opens.
Oak trees and the moon.
Light. Silent constellations.
And the cold ocean.
Thoughts standing still, like
the colored mosaic stones in
the palace courtyard.
Gaunt tousled pine trees
on the same tragic moorland.
Always and always.
Borne by the darkness.
I met an immense shadow
in a pair of eyes.
And blueweed, blueweed
keeps rising from the asphalt.
It's like a beggar.
The darkening leaves
in autumn are as precious
as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The long-standing apple-tree.
The sea is close by.
The blue giant passes by.
Cool breeze from the sea.
Birds in human shape.
The apple trees in blossom.
The great enigma.
Moon--its mast is rotten, its sail is shriveled.
Seagull--drunk and soaring away on currents.
Jetty--charred rectangular mass. The thickets
founder in darkness.
Out on doorstep. Morning is beating, beats on
ocean's granite gateways and sun is sparkling
near the world. Half-smothered, the gods of summer
fumble in sea mist.
[17 Poems; 1954]
-- Tomas Tranströmer
EXT: FARMER'S MARKET, LOS ANGELES: I had breakfast with my Ex-Husband on Monday. We don't know what to call each other. We are still married. I'm not sure why, but we are. We see each other infrequently, but we talk every day, and he is, to be honest, still my best friend. He introduced me to someone as "the mother of my children and my current wife" but that's not entirely true. I have to find a better word. There must be a better word. In his honor I ordered huevos divorciados. I chortled at the joke. He didn't notice. He stuck with rancheros. And all the way to breakfast I'd felt excited, as if there was something magical in this meeting, that I'd maybe I'd been wrong all along, and that he was lovely and I was lovely and it was all a big misunderstanding. Five minutes in I remembered why we couldn't live together. Tears were pouring down my face in the middle of the Farmer's Market (not enough tears apparently to prevent me from gulping down my divorced eggs and their two delicious salsas) and I remembered the pain that only someone who has known you most of your life can inflict, unwittingly. When he's really mad at me his eyes blink rapidly. But breakfast finished with my face only slightly red, my nose only slightly swollen, and I saw how bad he felt, not just for making me cry, but for all of it, for the years and years and years we spent together where we couldn't quite get it right, for being children together, for raising each other, for our co-dependence we couldn't shed, all of it. He struggles. I struggle. The children struggle. But we love, too, over divorced eggs and warm tortillas and "a bunch of fucking tourists you'll never see again" (his quote when I complained about crying in public).
For over a year there was anxiety: when was he (London boyfriend) going to call, when was I going to see him, would he keep his word, would he return the text, would he say good night, was he having a bad day, did he in fact love me as he said he did, was he going to miss another plane. It was constant. It was constant and I think I thought that I enjoyed it. I loved him. I loved him because he was brilliant and kind and funny and unpredictable and completely off his tree. And I thought that I would be able to change him. I thought that by loving him, everything would transform for him. I thought that the brilliant sunshine I brought to his life (and I am, I promise being ironic) would illuminate his days and we'd live happily ever after.
You see, the damage we dispensed to each other was beyond anything I imagined two human beings could do. I don't think it was intentional, but it felt like it, and so everything became miserable. Every time we spoke. Every interaction. Even seeing his name, or a letter he'd written me, a present from him, set me off into such a state of anxiety, I could hardly function. I didn't sleep. The sunny way I saw the world became dark and bleak. I was like an addict. Maybe I was an addict. "You're in a bad relationship" said my friends, all of them, at different times. "It's toxic" they said. But like my sweet Frenchie who won't let go of a toy she loves, and you have to wrest it from her grip and her strong, puffy jaws, I wouldn't, couldn't let go. 27 years of one relationship went pear-shaped. And then I was dancing and being read poems and walking through London at midnight and I was loved and fed smoked fish and flat whites and my hand was held constantly and I was told I was beautiful (and that hadn't happened for a long, long time) so you see, it was very hard to give up.
"You're worth more than table scraps" said a friend and I wondered what that meant. Because after no food, table scraps taste pretty good.
My mother said something quite telling the other day. She said "you can't keep asking about someone if there isn't happy news." And I think that is how we are programmed, to fill our lives with happy news. I do it without thinking about it. But one thing that John (my husband) taught me was that being in it, living with it, being in the pain, and feeling it, and allowing it to cover you, knowing, with faith, that it will go, that it will dissipate, is important. Maybe that is the healing, to just be with it, without judgement. Maybe that's what I have to learn to be comfortable with. My mother also said "he will make you unhappy for the rest of your life if you let him." It was that advice that allowed me to let go.
And so now, when I walk in the mornings, early, with the dogs, and marvel at the flowers that have grown overnight, and watch the hawks, the crows nesting, the little band of wild parrots that flies over the canyon, the cucumber vine with the spiky chartreuse fruit, that people hate and I love for its persistence, I have back a sense of wonder that I'd lost in the fraught, hard-scrabble world of trying to make a man love me when he didn't know how.
It's all here. It's in the trees and the grass and the birds. It's in the sky that makes theatre every morning and every evening, without fail. It's in the constant knowledge that the sun will rise and that there will be a new day, a new way to start, and way to make amends for the crappy job you did of yesterday, and that today there is a cup of tea, a joke, a book, work, a warm bed, some furry friends.
"Oh, to throw my arms round the neck of a creature, dog or man, a creature who loves me!" -- Colette
I'll stick with dogs for now. Ok?
Here's the Velvet Underground:
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
Friday, March 13, 2015
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
The room darkened, darkened until
our nakedness became a form of gray;
then the rain came bursting,
and we were sheltered, blessed,
upheld in a world of elements
that held us justified.
In all the love I had felt for you before,
in all that love,
there was no love
like that I felt when the rain began:
dim room, enveloping rush,
the slenderness of your throat,
the blessed slenderness.
"The Blessing" by John Updike from Collected Poems. © Knopf, 1993. Via Writer's Almanac
Thursday, February 26, 2015
I'm told it goes hand in hand with "divorce" "menopause" "empty nest." I'm still married, I'm not (yet, I don't think) going through menopause but yes, both my children don't live at home, but my husband and I have been apart for close to four years and though we are great friends, we lead our own lives.
Tonight on the phone I spoke to a friend of mine who suffers as I do. I know this because she pisses me off. She goes for long periods of time without calling me and I inevitably taking this personally. I'm wrong. She's worked all her life. She was a studio head. She is very, very smart. And she's not happy when she's not working. And so, like me, she hides sometimes. She stays in bed all day and reads books. Tonight I got her on the phone and I was happy about it. She has a deep, calm, purring voice and like me, she has Norwegian roots. We think of ourselves as tough girls. I told her why I fired my client who won three Oscars. She told me why she got back together with her husband.
And then I told her something I've never told anyone else, until today. I said "I'm lonely." I lived my whole life with someone else. And it's been four years since he's been gone, and I miss having a nice warm body in my bed. And I broke up with my lovely English boyfriend before Valentine's day, and he didn't live here anyway, and the truth is, I hole up here. I work. I sleep. I eat. I walk my dogs. And I'm lonely. And tonight, for the first time ever, as I was making pasta with pine nuts and cauliflower and parsley and reading Joan Didion's recipes, and talking to my lovely lumpy lady, who is 14 and a dalmatian, and very very lame on her front foot, I thought of a good idea, stirring garlic into the onions and cauliflower. I thought for the first time in nearly four years that I should call up my ex-husband and ask him if we should try again.
Now I know that we love each other. And I know that we're not compatible. And I know that he has a lovely girlfriend. And I know that there is a man in England that I'm mad about even though it's over. (I know that I love him madly despite the fact that he is a flakey, crazy, excuses-laden chap, hopelessly devoted to his singleton-dom.) But just for a moment, I thought, wouldn't it be nice to feel some relief from this terminal loneliness? And I do love the father of my children. He is a good man, a kind man, a man who buys excellent Christmas presents. But, jeez, what is that about?
What is this loneliness that creeps in at the time of year when we should be feeling hopeful? Spring solstice is only a few weeks away. Every morning I hear the birds singing jubilantly in the canyon. The grass is the greenest it will be this year. The trees are budding. I should be in someone's arms, drinking it all in, feeling optimistic.
I long, I long to be wrapped in warm arms. I long to make a cup of tea at six o'clock in the morning for someone other than myself. I know this is temporary. I know that this will pass. I know I must stick to my list of mental health fixes. (See the photo below. I'm amused, and must thank my ex-boyfriend for pointing out that I said THE nature, instead of nature, but you get the point.)
But I'm going to say it anyway. Although I am rich with friends, and I have a thriving business and clients I adore, I am lonely. (No disrespect, dog and horse friends, you've been wonderful). I'm also amused by it. People think because I am jolly and English and usually very optimistic that I'm always out and about and on the town. This could not be further from the truth.
This is what I'd like: to lay out under the stars somewhere without light pollution with the dogs and a nice warm jersey, and a nice man who understands what a nut I am and doesn't care. That's it. And maybe he'd be holding my hand.
Monday, February 23, 2015
My neck has a permanent dent in it from looking down at my phone. One of this week's New Yorker covers is appropriate:
How many of us miss the butterflies?
Every day is a choice. I realize this as I lay in bed at 5 or 6, wondering whether I can handle what's coming at me, wondering how everything will turn out, wondering if I'm strong enough to function in this town (my chronic dislike of the red carpet is well documented) or keep my head high for another day. But today I got up, I went outside with my limpy lame old lumpy lady who can barely walk, and she stopped and sniffed the fresh, rain-cleansed air, and positively smiled at it, and I thought yes, you can do this.