Sunday, July 22, 2007

FIELD NOTES: I watched her standing in front of the mirror...

Sometime in July

...for no particular reason. We have one small bathroom and she had blocked my exit so I watched her. It was more observation, like a shiny red shoe catching your eye in a store window or a wavy image you try to figure out from a distance. She is a reflection of me, only taller. Her leotard and tights – the ones that get shabby from so much practice – wrapped her body like a second skin. It took her awhile to smooth her silky golden hair into a ponytail so I watched her arms work rhythmically around her head like a spider weaving. I won’t tell her that. She is afraid of spiders. She looks askance and asks me if I want to get by. No, I say. Okay, my mother is doing one of her weird things again, says the curl of her eyebrow. She is beautiful on stage in costume and makeup and lights, well-rehearsed and centered. But here is where it counts. Here where I watch her using the mirror in the bathroom.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

FIELD NOTES: It was just BLTs...

First of July

...because I had some bacon to finish – only my firstborn son and me – everyone else was working or had gone out. I made a fire in the chiminea fire pit below the raised herb garden, after dinner, about seven, to burn the kindling that any storm or wind brings down like confetti from our annoying locust trees. It was unusually cool for July. Mylar pinwheels twirled between the lemon thyme and garlic chive, their flickers delighting my eye like a baby’s. The fountain trickled, James Taylor, then Carly Simon projected faintly from the indoor speakers and neighbors were laughing in the distance. I laughed, too, at the idea that I could put James and Carly back together again whenever I wished, like a child of divorced parents fantasizing about the past perfect. The New York Times and a few cinnamon-scented pinecones from Christmas finally gave my sticks and pinon chunks the courage they needed to carry-on on their own. I had my Polish crystal wineglass filled with California Bohemian Highway cabernet sauvignon 2005: “On its journey from the wine country hills to the Pacific, The Bohemian Highway meanders through vineyards, redwood forests and palm groves. This wine embodies the casual, free-flowing spirit you’ll find along the way.” I really wanted to toast marshmallows, a compulsion for any fire, but all I could find were mini-marshmallows leftover from a picnic my daughter had gone to. I put three at a time on a bamboo skewer so I could satisfy my craving. I thought, how sad is this, but then not. I celebrate my resourcefulness, cleverly enjoying life all by myself, like I used to as a child, my plastic Jane West and me riding off into the sunset on plastic Flame, her plastic coffee pot, frying pan, derringer and lipstick in the plastic strong box. I poke the glowing embers because it’s hard to believe they are real; they look like fake plastic electrified. Rosemary, cinnamon, pinon, marshmallows, red wine - I sniff out little beauties wherever I am. Sunday nights are melancholy because at the end of every weekend both not enough is done and too much is done. I bought a honeybee pin at the flea market early that morning to go with the yellow and black cotton sundress I found at the discount store. I just need a place to show off that dress...


You glance out the window and see a squirrel; someone walks past you or stands next to you; you are waiting at the drive-thru in the rain; you are driving a long distance: a dialogue goes on in your head whether you are aware of it or not. If we are pre-conditioned about what is supposed to be 'important', it will leave our consciousness like sand through a sieve. But place a pan underneath the sieve (or a note pad in our hands) and we may find a treasure. Trying to capture that, I come to this place out of a sense of obligation; an obligation to record what I see (and sense), to translate into words and images what I believe is often missed in the otherwise ordinary passing of days. It is an obligation to notice what it is like to be alive at this very moment rather than being defined by how I choose (or am bound) to make ends meet every month and how impressive a resume I can build. According to averages (and genetics) this may be the second half of my life – more or less. For my purposes here, approaching each entry as just that - one entry – is a haven not only from deadlines, but expectations as well; it is a freedom that feels like doodling in the margins or drawing with sidewalk chalk. Each day I look forward to finding something to write down. My notes land here, for the most part, ‘as is’ - no plot or teacherly story web or writing diamond; they meander, they float, they drift, the only conclusion they will have will be themselves. As writing samples, they may be quirky, but perhaps quirks are the random breezes (the ones that move a wind chime, lift a wing or nod a sunflower's head) among the prescriptions, self-help and motivational ‘secrets’ that load store shelves. A good scientist goes into the field with hypotheses, not results. A good writer develops character before conclusion. A good artist observes before interpreting. Each day we are compelled to survive, we must forage, hunt, gather and defend, but that is not all that is striking, that is not all that is sensual or brilliant or unusual, that is not what I most need you to know about me. Pretend you have just seated yourself on a bench, next to me. If you don’t know me, then pretend you do. If you do know me, then pretend you don’t. Sit beside me without the urge to fill in the silences and wait, just wait. Maybe we’ll notice something. Together.