Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Thanks

Listen 
with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is
 
-- W.S. Merwin 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Love Song

What have I to say to you
When we shall meet?
Yet—
I lie here thinking of you.

The stain of love
Is upon the world.
Yellow, yellow, yellow,
It eats into the leaves,
Smears with saffron
The horned branches that lean
Heavily
Against a smooth purple sky.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

I am alone.
The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.

See me!
My hair is dripping with nectar—
Starlings carry it
On their black wings.
See, at last
My arms and my hands
Are lying idle.

How can I tell
If I shall ever love you again
As I do now?

-- William Carlos Williams

Friday, December 09, 2016

Le Petit Reverse Commute

I spend a lot of time convincing people that I'm a brave person, but, in truth, I'm just good in a crisis. I collapse like anyone else after the crisis is over. And so, you can understand, that I'm more than a little bit terrified at the prospect of moving to the UK in January. (Although, technically, it's a reverse commute, a rather good phrase I've now copyrighted - don't you think there's a ring to it?)

First of all, my children are deeply unhappy about it, as you can imagine, and I'm not particularly thrilled at the prospect of not being in the same place as them. But, I get to see my mother for a bit, which is something I haven't done regularly since I was 22.

Secondly, I was terrified to tell my clients, because I thought they wouldn't take it well, but, as it turns out, that has proven to be wrong. They've all said in unison that they know they'll be taken care of and don't care where I do it from. And they know there will be an office in LA and someone to take care of them on the ground  and that all the strategy and planning can be done from anywhere in the world, and that I'll be back for the really important stuff. Most of what I do is on email or the phone, after all.

Thirdly, I've lived in LA for the last thirty years. Thirty years. Essentially, the whole of my adult life has been spent in this beautiful crazy sexy place. Thirty years of California light, of LA sunsets, of earthquakes and bad public transport, of skunks and cowboys and sweltering heat and bizarre flash floods, of wannabes and fakers and attitude and the seriously rich, of the Westside and the LA National Forest, coyotes and our lonesome Canyon owl. I live only a few yards from where Joni Mitchell lived, for goodness' sake.

Fourth, this house in Laurel Canyon has been my home for nearly twenty years. My children grew up here. I've had four dogs live and die here, and two more who are still living with me. After John left, I scoured the house for his stuff, took down all his pictures, try to erase all trace of him, but how, exactly do you do that when you've been with the same person since you were twenty? I look at the stuff we have: the plates and glasses and painting and tchotchkes, the yards of books, the boxes stuffed with photos, the baby stuff, the Christmas ornaments we've collected over the years, and which I'm going through now as I decorate the tree in an effort to embrace the season, and I'm sad.

Yesterday I started to collect my things, the painting that are mine, some silver from my Norwegian grandmother, gifts from the children: Mexican crosses and horseshoes wrapped in colorful wool, and pictures of them with the dogs. I went through bookshelves to take only the most special ones (A wise friend said, take only those things that will make you feel at home) and found old notes and postcards stuffed between the books, photographs that had been turned upside down, perhaps because once I didn't like them, drawers with more books, tiny ones, and little hand-scribbled notes. I pull pictures off walls so that now my bedroom wall, once an army of little black-framed pictures, looked like an overpicked strawberry patch on a hot summer day. All the things I'd tucked away to work on later -- prints I'd bought, still in their stiff card envelopes, a piece of tapestry, a bag of fabric from which I'd vowed to make a patchwork quilt -- now reveal themselves to me in their unfinished glory. What are they exactly, but evidence that I start things and don't finish? But more than that, the house feels cold without my little buddhas and kuan yins which I kept to keep us safe. The cushions that have LOVE written on them because I wanted to continue to promulgate that notion that it existed here. The books on birds and flowers and trees of California that I'd take out and use for a week, madly excited and then put away again. The old drawer with the mixtapes and the children's Christening presents. Oh, it's all too much.

The shippers come on Monday. I have it in black and white. They will arrive between 3pm and 5pm and then all things that make this feel like home will go, including my grandmother's candlesticks, and I will be left with two naughty dogs, two grown-up children who are unhappy with me, and the dull sense that I could have, somehow, made more of this time.

My mother says "don't buy too many things until you get here" when I suggest getting a bed and a sofa. She's right of course. The adorable cottage I'm renting I haven't even seen in real life. I trust her taste, of course, and Charlie's. The pictures are awfully sweet. It has tall chimneys and paint-chipped windows, and low ceilings because it was built in the 17th century, and it is mine for the next year. Three bedrooms and a vegetable garden, a tiny sitting room, some wood burners, and bookshelves. And right in the middle of the beautiful Chilterns, near an Iron Age fort, and ancient woodlands. I was thinking of the nature cure, of being able to immerse myself in woods and watch the dogs in their leaping happiness. "Just look at the place before you get anything" she said and I know this comes from a good place. "Can you imagine what it will feel like not to have a home?" I say. When I leave Laurel Canyon, that's it, that's no longer my house. I'm not sure why I feel this so acutely. It's just stuff they say. I know it is.

I'm a homebody. All of my confidence comes from this arcane idea that there is a heart at the centre of my home that beats for me and my children and our loved ones. And venturing away from that beating heart, and its warmth, and love, is frightening.

When your children go away to college, you gradually get used to the idea, I suppose. Not really. Looking at the old photos yesterday on my packing mission, I felt pangs of sadness every time I saw them as little ones, smiling at me, guileless, before they knew how to hate me. I still pick up the phone whenever they ring. I still buy them presents that I think will make them happy. I still pray for them every night, and light candles for them when I visit cathedrals. I feel there is a connection between us, a tiny silk filament that links us. Sometimes I tug. Sometimes they do. Knowing that they are both happy is the best thing ever. And knowing that they both have amazing, awesome, kind partners who love them, is all I could ask for.

But still. Not being able to have them round for our traditional Sunday night supper whenever I want to, is a hard thing to think about.

There is a good man, a tall, kind, handsome, sweet man in London who loves me and only wants the best for me. I know that. He is my English Oak. He is my good fortune. He is solid and brave and unmoving and he tells me that everything will be fine and every time I'm sad he reminds me that he is there, loving me. And that is really all I need.

But, gosh, this is very, very hard.

I'm going to publish a picture of this little cottage so you can see why I like it.


And thank you, each and every one of you, who have supported me through all the horribleness of the last five and a half years. I'm sorry I've been such a lousy blogger, but I'm so grateful to you all for being so kind.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The hillside

I am a little bit heartbroken. I can feel the lump in my throat. Today I walked down the back stairs from my deck to the hillside swail, where I go every morning with my dogs to greet the sunrise, where every day I put up pictures entitled "Good morning from Laurel Canyon," where I take my cup of tea and breathe in the morning air while the dogs root around, and today there was a fence there.  I don't know a lot about the lack of freedom. I've always been more or less free, but today I felt it, right in the center of my chest. And the dogs looked at the fence, expectantly, waiting for me to open the gate that wasn't there, confused. It's a really sad day. The swail is not an ideal path, it's a little wonky, but it follows the hillside around, underneath the houses, and I was the only one who walked there. But we walked every morning and most evenings and sometimes during the day as well if it was a hard day, just the dogs and me, and we listened to birds, and the beeping horns of traffic on Laurel Canyon, and we'd watch the sun come up, or the birds in the asparagus tree. Sometimes I'd record birdsong (my poor, long-suffering Instagram followers). And mostly I'd find a nice flat spot to sit down, sip my tea, and check my email getting ready for the day.

It's not my hillside. I have to walk past our property. And it's my neighbors' prerogative to build their fence; it's their land afterall. But there is no gate, and now, with the fence in place, there is no way through, not for me, my dogs, the coyotes, the skunks who live down the hill, the deer, or the raccoons. So a habit of many years is now ended. And I am, I'm afraid, a little bit sad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

We must say Yes to life

"One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found - and it is found in terrible places... For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out." 

-- James Baldwin 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

As virtuous men pass mildly away

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls, to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
'The breath goes now,' and some say, 'No:'

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears;
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refin'd,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begun. 


-- John Donne






 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Purge

Mercury makes one jittery. Mercury and this hot, damp, grey day that seems more like Florida than Los Angeles, with the crows squawking louder than usual, ominously, like a Hitchcock movie. Three more days to go until the retrograde is over. It creeps up on you, the unsettling-ness.

And I'm sorry that I come here to vent whenever the black dog hits me as it did today.

It stops you in your tracks, makes you unable to function. I didn't sleep all night, except for an hour just before dawn, because I realized I had a breakfast with a client. I wanted to cancel. I lay awake and worried and held on to the dogs and then I realized that Charlie wouldn't cancel, and that I couldn't either; it would be rude and unprofessional. But on little to no sleep, and under a dark cloud, it took a lot to get me there. This is not my personality. This is not who I am. This is not what I am proud of. I want to embrace it. I want to say, this is just part of who you are, and people will understand, there is no need to be ashamed, but I am ashamed, and I don't like this part. I don't like the stasis that sets in, the inability to laugh at oneself, the feeling that the sunshine that is usually beaming out has evaporated.

I want to note three or four things that I think might have contributed to this.

1) The Maharishi (my ex/not quite ex-husband as we're still married but we live completely separate lives) was apparently having a bad day and laid into me over something to do with our taxes (we still file jointly) and after three years of miserableness and the last two years of getting on generally rather well, this came as a shock. I don't blame him. I know he has a lot he is worrying about, but it was abrupt, and sharp, and made me realize that I was living in a cloud of denial. To actually think that one can go on as if one's marriage is over and not be divorced is quite frankly naive. We have enjoyed one of those relationships that people point to and say "oh, wow, you're so civilized! you do holidays together! you do dinners together!" and I feel kinda smug and proud, and it's just an illusion. Yes, my dear friend and ex-husband is a good man, a kind man, and a man I am very happy not to be married to anymore. He has a lovely girlfriend and I have a lovely boyfriend, and it's now time to move on, to get on with this very short life we have.

2) My daughter is understandably still angry at me. It is healthy, I suppose, that she tells me so. But it kills me. It absolutely kills me to know that she is so mad at me. And for the life of me, I don't know what to do about it. She is a spectacular human being: smart and beautiful and bright and loved and loving. But we are at odds, and it feels absolutely horrible.

3) I found out today that a friend had nearly died of a heart attack. She's a strong woman, brave, busy, creative, sparkling, full of life, young, charismatic, and she nearly died. If it weren't for the miraculous quick-minded action of two young doctors who administered blood thinners immediately, she would be dead. She told me that now she looks at life completely differently. She avoids conflict. She doesn't dwell on bad news. She is seeking out those she loves to be around her. She is taking her time to choose projects. She reaching out and telling people she loves them, as she did to me today. It's so so so trite, isn't it? But life is SHORT. And KINDNESS is what matters. The only thing. We had a jolly conversation, a lovely conversation. Her eyes were sparkling. She has lost weight ("It's the heart attack diet" she said, gleefully, twinkling at me.) She is different.

4) The T**** Stuff: Lies, Bigotry, Racism, More Lies. Blinding us. Every single news outlet. Every other tweet. On Facebook. On Instagram. On the news. This awful, awful man with the orange face and the hair Jimmy Fallon loves to muss.  It's so far away from what my brother calls "the high road." It's low and small and medieval and underhand and lacking in any kind of empathy or spritiuality. We are bathed in it, we're breathing it, and worse, people are embracing it. It feels like a shift to the dark side. We should be nurturing our better angels. Not this. Not ever this. (For more of this, please find Amy Ferris, who writes so eloquently and passionately about this horribleness.)

And so today, I'm stopped in my tracks, snuggled with my dogs, wrapped up warm, drinking tea, and hoping for a better tomorrow. The mere act of putting my thoughts into my fingers through the keyboard and on to this screen helps me purge. Thank you.