Hello From Inner Space

I suppose I could blame the long, hot dreadful dog days of summer for my silence. After all, what is there to say about the state of the earth under my feet this time of year?…

everything is wilting or contemplating death by heat exhaustion. Yeah, that’s my problem. It’s hot.

And it’ll be hot tomorrow…and on through the week…

Now that the hot season is coming to a close and my iPhone promises it’ll be under 100º by next Wednesday, I have one piece of wisdom to share for anyone else who finds themselves trapped in a Southwestern version of one of Dante’s Circles of Hell.


Easy peasie. Now if you can’t do this for reals, then do it in your head. In the two months I’ve been not blogging, I’ve added two more ways to escape my life when I don’t like it: Lifting Weights and Musical Theatre. I only need small doses of either to feel better. I should probably add listening to music really really loud in my car, but I’ve always done this to get out of a funk. I think I’m just cranking the volume up to compensate for getting older. (note to self: get bigger speakers before next birthday)

Things I’ve learned with my new hobbies:

  • I have triceps
  • A Goblet Squat is not something an exotic dancer does for extra tips
  • Priscilla Queen of the Desert is as FABULOUS on stage as it is in film
The "I Will Survive" number, my fave in the movie.

The “I Will Survive” number, my fave in the movie, although the finale is awesome as is Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera. . .and everything. . .


The "MacArthur Park" (Someone left the cake out in the rain) number, my fave on stage.

The “MacArthur Park” (Someone left the cake out in the rain) number, my fave on stage, but the flip-flop dress scene in the bar is up there, as is the finale and “It’s Raining Men” that kicked off the show and “Material Girl” featuring Felicia.

And so I’m back…from outer space…

I will survive.


When Cognitive Dissonance Arrives in the Mail

Today I received the latest issue of the Catholic Sun and a tote bag for being an HRC Partner. Perhaps not a mutually exclusive pairing, but coming on the heels of the Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and California’s Prop 8, the two bits of mail made me wonder if I need more clarity in my life.

In the quiet of my front courtyard, I read the articles related to the rulings and admired my tote bag, and concluded I’ll side in favor of love in all arguments, this one included. What’s good in a marriage is a loving couple. What’s good for children are loving grown-ups and, by grown-ups, I mean people who lovingly take on care-taking responsibilities of children, so this could be older siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, moms, dads, adoptive moms, adoptive dads. The sexual orientation of these grown-ups isn’t relevant to their care-taking.

So, my cognizance isn’t dissonant on this fact: Love matters most. Seems to me, the more loving couples there are, the more stable and contented children we’ll have and a huge purpose of marriage is to establish a framework for creating stable and contented children. Joint tax filing, visitation rights, inclusion on phone trees, being able to say “Let me ask my husband and I’ll get back to you”…also nice.

The Supreme Court weighed in, not to establish itself as an oligarchy, but because state and federal laws related to marriage were challenged with respect to constitutional protections. In cases like this, it’s the Supreme’s Court’s job to weigh in. I’m always pleased when government workers do their job, since they work for me (and all other American citizens). I can’t afford to hire slackards.

Always good a good day when the mail makes me think.

Always good a good day when the mail makes me think.

New Life Breeds Forgiveness

A few years ago, a fraternity moved in next door to my house. A less than ideal situation for me, since I’m a quiet teetotaler these days (except when I’m in my car and then love to try to get James Hetfield to blow out my speakers…still sober, of course) and this particular fraternal order of Greeks had a deep thirst and love of beer pong. So when it moved away, the only thing I missed was my apple sapling.

In all the thousands of apples I’ve eaten in my many thousands of days of life, I had never found a germinated seed, and then one day it happened. Of course I planted it. It grew and was on its way to becoming an apple tree when it disappeared. There had been a gathering next door the night before and so, on a hunch, I followed the trail of red plastic cups scattered on the ground like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs and, sure enough, I found the sad remains of the sapling lying in a broken heap in the street. Now the implication that a drunken frat boy got a wild notion to abscond with my sapling, perhaps thinking he might take up horticulture but then reconsidered three blocks from my house and threw the sapling to the ground as some symbolic gesture of the torment of his unfulfilled verdant dreams, is just speculation. The street sign by my house also vanished one night, so I won’t rule out imps of some sort.

I performed an emergency transplant, but the tree perished. Anyhow, I thought my chances were meager of ever finding another sprouting apple seed, so my feelings about fraternities have been colored by the personal lose of my sapling…until last week. To my delight, all the Pink Crisps I bought at Safeway contained germinating seeds. My husband thinks the apples might be from a batch that escaped the normal radiation treatment store-bought produce is subjected to. He may be onto something, since twenty seconds of intense Google research supports his theory.

Here are the three seedlings that show promise. I’m thinking of naming them Tau, Kappa and Epsilom. I wonder if they like beer?

pink crisp apple seedlings by my cluttered kitchen window sill

Pink crisp apple seedlings by my cluttered kitchen window sill. The seashells once held my hermit crab who died a few years ago, so, no, I don’t recover from loss all that quickly.

Confessions of a Tree Murderer

Paper is trees.

How many times have I heard this said since the first Earth Day in 1970? So Yay! for the digital revolution. As a writer, I can now do my part to save the planet by penning everything without a pen…or paper. Yeah, right…until I need to edit. I have yet to find the digital equivalent to scratching out stupid things I’ve written and then scribbling less stupid ones in the margins, and using copious arrows and asterisks to instruct me later when I’m typing in all the changes and have no idea what I had been thinking. I edit on paper and, because I can always find flaws in everything I write, I work multiple drafts.

Observe my stack of tree bones, the horror of it. I could recycle it all once the book comes out, but think of the dissertation potential that would be lost for an eager future doctoral student examining the writing process of a then-dead famous early 20th-century novelist. Of course, that’s presuming I become famous…and die. Immortality is not completely off the table in terms of future possibilities. Sure, I could scan all these drafts and store them in a cloud, but who has time for that? (Immortals) I could insulate the attic, but the R-rating of plain bond paper is probably not as good as the soybean foam we’ve got up there already. So, I stack them on my desk, a paper trunk, as proof of both my productivity and environmental sins. Then someday, like a scene out of E.L. Doctorow’s novel Homer & Langley, I’ll be crushed to death by this constructed tree of hoarded paper. I guess I can live with that.

Drafts of my YA novels guarded by an origami boar my son made.

Drafts guarded by an origami boar my son made.

These Eggs Contain No Guilt

Aging hippie guilt has wide breadth (and would be a good rock band name). Today I’m assuaging mine for not raising chickens in my backyard. So, even though the summer heat has begun to weigh on me like a thick wool blanket, I feel a little lighter because I no longer feel bad for not being an urban chicken farmer. This is also a lesson in saying yes when a friend asks you to watch after her dog and then you find, when it’s too late to back out, that she also has two cats, four chickens and a fish (note to self: remember to check on the fish tonight).

As it turns out, chickens may have the highest ratio of poop to body mass of any warm-blooded creature. Had I thought about how often chicken poop is used in mass quantities as a soil amendment, I might have surmised this before today. But I like physical proof of things anyhow. A bit of a doubting Thomas, I am, in most regards.

Chickens poop all day long, anywhere they happen to be and in wet mounds that must include the secret ingredient for super glue. My husband has a long-standing and deep loathing for all things chicken (he doesn’t even care for people who behave like chickens), so our maybe-we-should-try-urban-chicken-farming conversations go like this:

Me: Maybe we should try urban chicken farming.

Him: No.

And then we go back to whatever we had been talking about before my aging hippie guilt had conjured the chicken query.

So, to anyone considering urban chicken farming, think long and hard about poop and how important fresh eggs are to you. I’ve decided to continue buying the organic brand of brown eggs laid by chickens who, the package assures me, enjoy the free range and dine exclusively on a vegetarian diet containing no growth hormones, former chickens, pesticides or bad thoughts.

eggs harvested this morning from the chicken coop, a word I just figured out is a contraction for covered poop.

eggs harvested this morning from the chicken coop, a word I just figured out is a contraction for Covered pOOP.

An Uphill Climb

Some days it feels like every step forward is an upward one. Sure, I guess this could be tiring, but consider the view from the top. Last weekend I hiked up to 10,000 feet with my family, the highest my kids have gone with their feet still on the ground. Before getting out of cell phone range, I had down-loaded HRC’s photo ap for imprinting pictures with the red version of the logo. Using it along the trail, of course, colored my thoughts as well as my snapshots of the quaking aspens. How could it not occur to me that I was hiking with my family, a small gaggle of four individuals who, because of the gender differences between my husband and I, were recognized, legally, by the Nation as a family.

I imagined what it might feel like if this weren’t the case. . .Sure, I might be able to still enjoy a hike (on federal land by the way), but I wouldn’t feel like the constitution had my back.

I’ve been mad at the United States Supreme Court ever since they decided the Gore/Bush presidential election, but today, by striking down DOMA, I get to remember why I had admired the court in the first place. They ruled on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. I’m happy, because I agree with the decision. I believe every loving couple in the United States should be able to enjoy the federal and state privileges my husband and I do. But I feel proud of the governmental process, because the Supreme Court did what they are called upon to do by the constitution. Decide of the constitutionality of laws.

And, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, the California case ruling has been announced. So, Yay for my home state!

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For the Love of a Tree

Anyone who has been in a high school creative writing class knows one snapshot tells multiple stories. The image below could be a tragedy in the way it conveys the tenuous grasp humans seem to have on the natural world. Like in a Shakespearean tragedy, no one is left standing on this dreary stage, except that annoying guy who emerges from behind the curtain in the end to say “alas.” If I tell the story of this picture as a tragedy, I have to be the annoying guy.

No thanks.

I’m much more fond of love stories, dark and funny ones that reveal the length a person will go for the love of another…person, usually. This image tells a story of the love one guy (okay, so I see this character as a guy. I’m fascinated by man love) has for a tree, the length he  will go to sustain a relationship with his beloved long after everyone else can see it’s over. Friends will come by and shake their heads. Some might say “perhaps it’s time to think about…you know…getting another…tree.”

He’ll tell these heartless friends to get the hell out of his yard. Then he’ll pat the foliage that he’s lovingly trained around the dead palm’s stump and mumble things like “don’t listen to them. They don’t know you like I know you.”

Ah, love.

And, yes, I can hear the theme song to Love Story playing faintly in my head right now.

And, yes, I can hear the theme song to Love Story playing faintly in my head right now.


Chaos Theory Applied in Garden

The tranquility trees are blooming. I’ve been training the one closest to the courtyard to drape like an arch at the entry. Anyone who comes to our house gets to walk under this arbor. I think this is why people are generally friendly by the time they reach our front door. This season the draping branches hang over the stone wall Joe and I built out of river rock, red round stones we collected from here and there. This morning the tree branches are blushed with tiny yellow blossoms. I wrote about these trees last August when the blooms had already turned into the hard smooth seed pods. I wrote about our courtyard last September, but the picture in that post doesn’t show the branches of the tree draping over the wall. It hadn’t gotten that far when I took the picture.

So today, I’m discovering a dilemma with blogging. I have to remember what I write about, so I can always offer something new. This could get sketchy.

Today the bit of news is that these  trees are the reason we redid our front yard.We were given six of them to test out from a local nursery and they were sitting in their wooden boxes on our old driveway. It was summer and the only way to keep them alive was to hand water them. This was my job, because my husband works a lot and my children don’t like the out doors as much as I do, especially in the summer when it’s well over a hundred degrees. I like watering plants, because it’s a meditative kind of thing to do and I’m a terrible meditator. Watering makes me feel as Zen as I’ll ever be. But watering six large trees in the dead heat of summer is too much Zen.

So I innocently said, “we should plant these trees.”

And my husband didn’t say “sure, we could do that.”

Instead he drew up a plan and showed me the drawing. We talked about little revisions that I can’t recall, but making them allowed me to feel like I had some hand in the final design. And I’m fuzzy on the order in which things unfolded from there. I remember a huge pile of sand sat in front of the house for so long the neighboring kids thought of it like a small playground. A ditch deep enough to bury a few horses cut across the yard in an arc all through the rainy season and filled with water enough to resemble a muddy pool. My son played in it until he looked like he was made from clay. A fireman friend came by to put in a steel header shaped like a giant egg to contain the grass we planned to keep. Walls went up. Sprinklers were installed.

Then my husband came home driving a front-end loader and broke the driveway apart by catching the concrete slab in the loader’s teeth and lifting it high in the air. Then he let it drop so it could crack into flagstone-sized pieces. There were many weeks of setting the broken concrete to form a new drive and fill in the courtyard.

Then we planted the tranquility trees.

Two years may have gone by during all this mess making, but time has a way of flowing past me in immeasurable streams, so maybe it was three. It doesn’t matter now. The trees are blooming and beginning to look like they’ve always been here.

clustered bloom of the tranquility tree

clustered bloom of the tranquility tree

The Picket Fence Debate

My hollyhocks bloom later than others I see around town. Yesterday I mentioned this to my husband as we drove past a spray of them exploding in a deep magenta burst over a tall wall in someone else’s yard.

“Yours are wild,” he said like this explained everything.

It’s true…sort of. About ten years ago I bought a few packets of hollyhock seeds and planted them in our backyard. This was when we had a fenced off area in the back to keep the dogs at bay. Fence is a generous term. Let me explain.

One of the dogs had pooped in my Chile pepper patch.

After the poop, I said to my husband, “We should build a picket fence to keep the dogs out of my garden.” I’ve always liked picket fences.

When my husband doesn’t want to do what I suggest he says things like, “Sure, we could do that.” He says it in his usual kind voice…with only the tiniest extra emphasis on the word could. Then he does what I’ve come to recognize as buying time.

He goes to Home Depot.

He came home with Day-Glo orange plastic sheeting, the kind used at crime scenes when yellow tape won’t do. And a handful of zip-ties and long spikes of rebar. Within an hour, I had a fence. Afterwards, off and on, we continued the picket fence debate. He had built the Day-Glo crime scene fence, so he didn’t need to say much more about his position. Clearly, he was against it. As is my habit, I researched the history of the picket fence to gain a deeper understanding of its cultural significance to support my side of the discussion.

Turns out the picket has a sordid past. Picket derives from the French word piquer, to pierce, and piquet, pointed stake. These piquets were used to stab horses during military clashes. The picket was also used as a form of torture. In 1706, to stand upon the picket described what a naughty soldier would be made to do. One hand was tied high above his head and then he had to balance on a picket with the tippy toe of his opposing bare foot, so “he could neither stand, nor hang well.” I’m still not clear on what it means to “hang well.” As a person fond of horses and human beings, this information was troubling. On the up side, standing picket also came to refer to soldiers who stand guard. Very heroic. Pickets were also taken up, with signs tacked to them, to become one of the icons of action for labor reform and social justice. Crossing a picket line turned people into scabs. Not heroic. And the white picket fence evolved into a symbol of middle class suburban America.

In the rebuttal stage of the debate, my husband offered something like, “They are kitch.” He may have added, “I just don’t like them.”

I countered with an acknowledgement that while the single picket had a violent history, the fence itself is still an icon of the American Dream…and they are pretty when flowers bloom over and through them.

I didn’t keep a court-reporter-quality record of this discourse, but it carried on while the hollyhocks grew eight feet tall, bloomed, went to seed, died and the garden went fallow. I think I had a second baby.

Even though we haven’t reached resolution on the philosophical underpinnings of the picket fence, each spring hollyhocks come up on our property. I encourage them by collecting the flat black seeds and scattering them all around. They stopped coming up in the backyard, especially after the crime scene fence deteriorated and we got another dog. They emerge where they please, usually in low spots where water pools and in the shade of walls. But they always bloom late.

Perhaps they bloom late to remind me to be patient. It helps to be patient when it comes to anything involving my husband and things that send him to Home Depot to buy time.P1050873 cropped

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Political Fruit

I have a slow colon. It’d make sense to blame the sedentary lifestyle of the writer, sitting at my desk, tapping away, too caught up in the words pouring from that magical place in my mind to heed the signals that my large intestine needs a work out. Sure, I could buy that. But I blame the political fruits that my dad’s ethics (and eventually my own) restricted me from eating. While other kids were happily building strong intestinal walls to last a lifetime by noshing away at grapes washed down with a tall glass of OJ, I was just standing in my imaginary picket line longing to join them.

I’m a berry lover, so grapes are not my absolute favorite fruit, but they rank in the top ten. During the collective struggles of migrant farm workers for better conditions, my dad refused to buy grapes. That he still drank grapes in the form of deep red wine he bought by the gallon didn’t alter the fact that I had no grapes to eat. I went along with the grape boycott for the sole reason that I thought my dad was always the smartest person in the room (he still is) and if he said it’s wrong to eat grapes, than it was infallibly wrong. He was like my Pope.

So fast forward a few years to when I have a mind of my own. It’s 1977 and I love orange juice. By now my dad has moved to Oregon and I’m living on my own and still in high school. (Mom had been out of the picture since I was five, but for the record she was living in Southern California near an orange grove). I was living in Berkeley. Then way over in Florida, a woman named Anita Bryant had an opinion about homosexuality. She was against it. And she loved orange juice enough to be on TV singing the praises of OJ. So, I was faced with an ethical dilemma. What do I love more: OJ or homosexuals? Naturally, I stopped drinking orange juice.

Especially after Harvey Milk was murdered the following year.

When people start getting murdered for actively being themselves and working to allow other people to freely be themselves, I think about the bewigged dudes who scratched out the constitution with quill pens, how in 1789 when they added on the first ten amendments and so created the Bill of Rights they might not have envisioned all the ways in which Americans might need their civil and human rights protected. They gave us a good head start, but there is definitely still more work to be done. So if Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) suggests a new political fruit I should forgo to move the civil and human rights of the LBGT community forward, I’ll listen to him or any other group working to enlarge the scope of Americans who can fully enjoy the rights due them by the Constitution of the United States.

In the meantime, I have an orange tree growing in my backyard and a grapevine in the front to help keep me regular no matter what civil rights politics takes off my plate.

grapes in my yard

grapes in my yard

orange tree in the back with resident wildlife

orange tree in the back with resident wildlife