Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Constant Come Back

After a quick Southern California trip to see my grandparents, we arrived safely (puppy and all) in the home valley. It's colder than I thought it would be, but just as pretty as always. We're looking after friend's dogs in a house perched on top of a mountain while finishing up work. As the copy work dwindles for the holiday and the novel work begins again, I'm watching a German Shepherd, a Catahoula Cur, and a much-fiestier-than-she-looks pug try and play nice by sharing bones and patrolling the grounds together. The fine and difficult art of sharing time and space with other animals. Oh the complexities of building a new society. Oh the homes we make out of rocks and dust. 

Everyone is going home. Or so it seems on the interwebs. I like that. A returning. A coming back to each other. A brief pause in the middle of all our private and political disasters. I always think of one of my favorite Robert Hass poems, "Faint Music," where the ending opens up so beautifully. "I had the idea that the world's so full of pain/it must sometimes make a kind of singing./ And that the sequence helps, as much as the order./ First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing." Now, we get to sing.

I'm looking for Thanksgiving poems to share at the table on Thursday. My non-believer way of saying thank you, my little atheist prayers. 

(Some people have home teams, I have home trees. This is my most cherished tree-teacher. "Good things come in trees." I know the California state tree is the redwood, but sometimes I think it should be the oak.)

(From the top of the Corridor Ridge trail where I came with my labrador when I was little, we walked in the late afternoon. This time, with my new favorite dog by my side.)

(Who says we don't have seasons in California? This is what we call the Sonoma "color.")

I think of the coming back we do to our roots and of Kay Ryan's "A Certain Kind of Eden," with the lines: "Even the one vine that tendrils out alone/ in time turns on its own impulse,/twisting back down its upward course/ a strong and then a stronger rope,/ the greenest saddest strongest/ kind of hope." 

What needy things we are. What greedy things. How generous of the earth to put up with our endless coming home, our own weird gravity of belonging somehow, somewhere, to some part of the forgiving land, we unwittingly try and call our own.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Dead & the Lucky

In the slumping afternoon light, I went to the basement to dig up all the photos of my dead. I wanted a picture of my Grandpa Frank, my Grandma Mary, Uncle Chuck, Jess, Denver, and of course, my beloved stepmom, Cynthia who died 2 years ago in February.

The lights in the basement are touch and go. That is, they mostly don’t work. But when I went down to look for photos, all the lights came on. I looked into the space around me and said, “Thank you.”

All the photos! I was lost in love with them. So much so, that it no longer became about celebrating the dead, but also the past, all the wonderful, and painful things that make up a lovely and ridiculous life. Soon, I had photos spread out all over the washing machine and was pouring through letters that I saved. Crying. Laughing. Making absurd human sounds that must have disturbed (or delighted) the dusty corners.

I have no real point, only to say, it was all so pleasant; spending the day with my dead and my past. I kept thinking of Cynthia and missing the way she laughed when we spent complicated evenings in the kitchen making complicated things. I miss her the hardest. All the time. I miss the fact that she doesn’t know the man I love, or how drastically my life has changed in the two years she's been gone, or how she gave me much of the courage to change it. It was the best afternoon with the dead, ever. Like spending the afternoon in soft pants and homemade butter cream.

Earlier, my “Uncle Oil” or Earl LeClair, one of my stepdad’s best friends (and a wonderful poet who inspired me from my first minor inclinations toward writing) showed up with his friend Alice, and unexpectedly and took me to lunch. It was just what I needed, his big wicked grin in bluegrass.

So, it seems this El Dia de Los Muertos was a lucky one. All lights on and a glow. Come back any time, my gone ones. You are very welcome here.