Many people have asked to read chapter excerpts from the book I am writing about Asha Veil and the crime which took her, and her unborn daughter, away forever. I have decided to create another blog for the specific purpose of posting chapters for my readers. Please click on the link and it will take you there.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The McClish House

Sorry I haven't posted for a few days.  Memorial Day Weekend was a bit hectic.

I thought I would describe the house where Michael McClish lived with his family during the time of the murder.

First off, it seems extremely unfair on many levels that he had such a nice house, much larger than the home Asha moved into.  His former house is located on a long, seemingly endless road that ends in a sort of cul-de-sac, with a trail leading out of it.  There used to be a Christmas tree farm just above a place I lived, long ago, that actually could be reached by this trail.  Now there is a "private property" sign located near the trailhead.

At any rate, there are a lot of oak trees on this road, and their leaves seem to stay forever on the ground; the street is littered with them.  At some point, I had the idea in my head that the McClish family lived in some sort of ramshackle place, but the house, in reality, is beautiful--a ranch-style house, painted lemon-beige, with what looks like an atrium or huge skylights at one end. The grounds are set up for professional landscaping, but there is almost nothing in the big planters. Everything is in shades of beige and light brown. There is a large hedge in the front and a few plants near the porch, but that's it.  The impression is one of dead earth, or suspended life, or no life: the energy seems dull somehow.  I would not want to live in such a place, even if I did not know its history.

And yet, how did McClish afford the rent on this house, which is by no means a shack and not small?  His wife was a stay-at-home mother and they had three kids.  He certainly wasn't making a mint as a store manager.  It makes me wonder if someone in his family was helping out, or if he got a deal on the rental.  They were in the process of losing their rental, though, when the murder happened (I have to research more of the history regarding that property, too: renters are often asked to leave if the property is going to be sold).

I sat in my car across the street, looking at McClish's house, and realized how little I wanted to see from this man's perspective, but did it anyways: this was the place he left on September 9, 2006 to see Asha at the store.  He came back to the house that night after the murder and immediately threw all his own clothes in the washer, even though the garage had piles of laundry to be done.  This was the house where he planned to get rid of his "problem" and not have to answer for his actions.

It's hard to look at places like this, especially anything to do with the killer, directly, but it's all part of the process of walking in the footsteps of the people connected to this story.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

House #1: Asha

Briefly, I am going to describe first Asha's little house, where she rented a room in the last months of her life.

Before I went to the neighborhood, I stopped by at a new place, the Ben Lomond Baking Company, and got an excellent sfogiatella (an Italian pastry, flaky, and with ricotta backed in), and the ubiquitous-for-Santa Cruz chai. The pastry was made with lemon and olive oil instead of butter, which to me is the taste of home and of family (I am half Italian and grew up in an Italian-speaking home). It was definitely comfort food; these field trips have their upsetting and disquieting side: little by little, Asha takes shape for me through the places where she went, the home she lived in.  It is like the Cheshire Cat in reverse: and as she becomes clearer, so does the horror of her loss, and Anina also.

I drove by the house and did not walk, so I did not get a chance to look at it closely, though I will this week.  It was a bit on the rainy and cold side, and so I drove.  The first thing I noticed about the street was the layer of gravel, in great need of repair.  She would have heard the same popping and crunching as I did, when she drove along it.  The opposite side of the road has a small, meadow-like area, with some well-established oak trees.

As I said yesterday, her final home looks like a little Victorian cottage, as if someone had transplanted a small Santa Cruz house to the Ben Lomond woods.  The house is painted a lemon-cream color, and there are daylilies well past their prime in the front planter (eg. fronds and no flowers).  I notice a couple of juvenile palm trees in the front yard; there are full-grown palm trees on the street, so incongruous among oaks and redwood trees that it is almost funny.  The house is so small that, even though I knew it was there, I drove past it without noticing.

There is a metal roof over the porch; if it had been there when Asha rented her room, she would have heard the unique sound of rainfall on such a roof, a tinny sound accompanying the falling rain.  It is an altogether pleasant little house, a bit larger than it seems from the street.  There is a small structure on the very side of the house which looks like a tiny studio apartment, so small.  There is a package on the steps of that structure.  Is it a living space?  I look at the house and wonder which was her room, what kind of things she could see out of her window.  I tell myself this neighborhood is what she saw, going to work and coming home every day.  This is where she planned for the baby, brought home the small clothes.  In her backpack, found on Quail Hollow Road, there was a list of items for a baby shower.  Did she write that list in this little house?

 It  must have been so hard to transition from her hopes and dreams of her marriage working out, to a room in the little house.  Uprooting is always hard; uprooting when you are pregnant and when traumatic things have happened to you, one thing after another, would be, at the least, disorienting. I wonder if there were mornings she woke and in a half-sleep, thought she was home with her husband and nothing bad had ever happened.  Such things have happened to me, the reality taking over what my half-sleep is telling me.

It is a pretty, quiet neighborhood, but seems vulnerable, as I said before.  It opens off a main road.  If someone really wanted to find her there, they could have, easily.  I would not have felt safe there if I needed to get away from a negative situation.

A small house.  Palm trees on the street.  A corrugated metal roof.  Oak leaves littering the ground.  A turnaround at the end of the street, which borders the forest.  A gravel road that pops and crunches when a car drives over it.  That was what she saw every day.  I look at this place and am glad she was able to find a place to live: the rental market has always been awful in Santa Cruz.  I am glad she was able to land somewhere.

Next post, which I should have titled, "The Unfairness of it All," deals with the McClish house.  It is a true study in contrasts.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Someone asked a question of me about a song they saw on Facebook, and the woman who sang it, Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention. Oh,my gosh, do I know Fairport Convention: I hung out with all the cool musicians in college, and they all loved FC.  I looked up a few songs and then found this one: "Fotheringay," about Mary, Queen of Scots (Fotheringay was the castle where she was imprisoned).

And of course, when I heard this tonight after twenty years, on one of those hard nights when I just want to give up the book in the wake of so much frustration, a song comes on that makes me think of Asha and her child...this song will forever push me forward now. I am glad to be reminded of it tonight.

Tomorrow I will talk about my sojourn to see Asha's final home and then McClish's home...it angered me: how did he wind up with such a huge frickin house?  The house where Asha lived is really lovely, as if someone uprooted a little Victorian house from Santa Cruz and planted it in the woods. Her home seemed so pretty and light; his house was just plain barren.

I will talk about that more tomorrow: for now, a song:

Wild Turkey

No, not the booze (which I have never had):  there was an honest to God wild turkey--a big one--walking in my yard yesterday (my yard is a meadow bordering the forest).  I have been hearing wild turkeys all week; I wonder if they are fanning out from their usual feeding places because of the drought.  Anyways, here is a picture of my visitor, the wild turkey of Felton, California.

The weird thing is, driving home today, I saw a female wild turkey cross the street (and yes, it got to the other side).

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Private Journal, and a Visit

I have begun a private, encrypted journal (military style encryption) to talk about m. and the sadness I still feel since he has been gone.  I still have a tangle of emotions about it all: continuing shock, sadness, love, regret, etc, all rolled into one snarled mass.  No one can see the diary or access it but me.  I think that is good.  There is too much to write about and ponder, and work my way through.

I don't think we ever get over these people we love so deeply. People tell me he didn't deserve someone like me, that he will kick himself in time for doing what he did to me. I wonder.  There are people who do not care like this. Perhaps I cling to an image that never really was, wanting it to come back.  When I am in my Lompico house, sometimes I pretend that I am getting it ready for a visit from him.  Somehow the little wish/fantasy actually makes me happy for the time I am up there, and keeps me working!

Still, I would find it hard to explain to people what m. meant to me, despite the extreme difficulties at times, or why this is still so difficult for me.  But it is so. I think some of his family understands this.  Only one of them has let me go.  They still care about me, I think, even though I will never have my wish, that I might have been married into their fold, buttoned up and safe, at last, with good people who loved me and understood me, perhaps, and would accept all my kids, not just a few of them.  It means a lot to not be let go completely from their circle.  I have so few people other than my kids and Thistle who are really family to me.

I can't handwrite anymore since the trauma in Dec. 2013. so I can't write yet in my "paper" journal, and just writing pages in Libre doesn't help as much as an online, private journal . I expect it will take at least another couple of years to really get over what I went through, if I will ever get there 100 percent, and I don't want to regale my readers every five minutes.  I will still talk about it from time to time here, but will be venting more in the private and locked journal.  The site I am using is very good for these kind of things.  I will not reveal its name here; there are quite a few online. 

At any rate, Thistle visited with her mother today in the place where "her mother is getting well."  These visits always leave me with enormous sadness, as well as happiness at watching them be together, and seeing their relationship bloom again, little by little.  I pray nothing happens to break this little girl's heart again.  So few people really understand this kind of pain unless they live through it.

I have pictures to scan for tomorrow and an appointment to prepare for, so will cut this short and wish everyone a good week, with appreciation for your coming to this blog to read my meanderings!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to my eldest! I am so proud of him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wild Pigs

I haven't had a visit from them, on this property, for many years.  About six years ago, when the weather was very hot, we had repeated visits from them (once, a bunch of them ran near the front deck, as they followed a certain track up to my neighbor's house, where, for some reason, they would root).  At the time, there was a water drip from a spigot near some rose bushes, and the hogs apparently chose that spot as a wallow.  The sound was like the scene in the New Testament, when Jesus exorcised demons from some unfortunate man and they went into a herd of pigs.  They were around for several nights in the hot weather; the combination of heat and absolutely maniacal sounds from the hogs, the sound of the herd running, and the crazy vocalizations made it seem like a bizarre horror movie.

I was on the deck last night when I first heard the heavy bodies coming out of the woods: it's unmistakable that there are many of them. They grunted like farm pigs last night, mostly, and I heard them scratching themselves on trees, at which point I went back in the house.  I have an enclosed back deck and have sat listening to a mountain lion shrieking and growling (probably much farther away than it sounded), and bobcats, foxes, and coyotes: but there's no way I am going to feel safe around feral hogs except in my house with the door locked!  They are really destructive and also very dangerous.

If you want to hear the creepy vocalizations, here they are, but be forewarned: they sound like something out of Jurassic Park:

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Someone asked me if I have ever gotten so frustrated that I want to give up this book.  I told them that there is a point every day, usually in the morning, where I try to convince myself that I am taking on too much, that I will do more harm than good with this, that people in this community will hate me, throw rocks at my door, that I won't be able to go into Ben Lomond anymore, etc.  Frankly, none of that may happen.  I fear a lot of things, and most of them have never come true.

I feel now that it is too late to stop, that I have gone forward into this journey past the point where I can drop it.  Driving by the house where Asha lived out the remainder of her life consolidated that feeling: though I knew her, a little, I never had a real glimpse into the life she led outside her workplace until I drove the other night by the small house on a gravel road: it is white, well-kept, and a honey-gold light shone in the windows; I could tell by glancing inside that it was neat and clean.  The house was sold in 2013, so I have no idea what it looked like when Asha lived there. I assume it was nice, even then.  I have thought a lot about her roommates; in such a tiny place, a cottage, really, it might have been hard to have privacy and personal space.  Still, I wonder if the presence of others in the house might have provided a small sense of safety, even if they did not know the reasons why she had moved there. 

Seeing her house brought something into my consciousness: in order to write her story, I have to metaphorically step into her footprints and, for a while, walk in her path as best I can, the way I used to walk as a child in my mother's footprints, pressed into the sand, a lifetime ago on a Southern California beach.  That is why I was so saddened when someone described this as a "project": something my heart has gone into so deeply is not a "project".  It is far deeper than that to me. Only a thread separated my fate from hers, and perhaps I write from the depths of a survivor's guilt.  Why her and not me, when she was by far braver and more sure than I ever was: I won't call myself a coward, but I came to Santa Cruz so entrenched in a lack of self-worth that I believed I could not live on my own with my child.  Plus, the one thread I want to connect compels me: did her killer also kill Juanita Nelson, who disappeared when he got married?  Everyone I know feels that he did: but so far, there is not a real thread that connects him directly to this crime.

Soon Thistle will be out of school and I will not have time for my long walks where I think about things: I read the court papers and news accounts, my notes on what people have told me, and I walk, think, and somehow some thread I can follow coalesces for me.  Sometimes I find a feather on the ground: when I really want to give up, usually that day I find a feather, often a raven's feather; there is a vase of feathers now, blue, gray, and black, next to the candle I made for her, to illuminate my way through this story.

 Often as I write, I am reminded of all the myths where a person is given a thread or a piece of string to carry, which spools out, held by another person at the other end of the path.  It is possible to walk in the dark, in an unfamiliar place and not be lost, by holding such a thread: in the long-ago, it was called a "clew." There has to be trust in the person who holds the other end of the line, a belief that they will not drop it.  Who is the person holding the thread, and who leads the way into this path? I do not know, but still I hold on to my end of the line, walking all the uncertainties and unknowns that surround this story, for me, trusting that I will find what I need along the way.

Thursday, May 07, 2015


After a great dance class last night, I drove to the street where Asha lived during the last months of her life; I had looked up the house on Google Maps.  The side street has a pretty awful road, gravel and with a need to fill in the demarcation between it  and the main road.  There are palm trees farther on the road, which I find so weird up  here in the mountains.   It's a fairly wide road with a big turnout at the end.  When the weather lightens up (it has been raining, very welcome right now), I am going to get my water bottle, dress in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and my walking shoes, and walk down the road, pretending I am a nice lady of a certain age, just taking a walk to get into shape.  That way I can get a closer look at the house.

I did get to see what I am pretty sure is the house--a small place, but very pretty, and one I would be happy to live in myself.  I wonder how Asha got a room in this house, if someone offered it to her, or if it was found by the resource center which helped her (in those organizations, there is usually a list of people willing to take in pregnant mothers)--whatever way she landed there, it seemed a nice little place.  I have no idea at all how she felt about the people who lived with her there, except something in the court records which stated that she was eager to move away from her roommates and get her own place/: in such a tiny place, there couldn't have been many roommates.  It's far too small and in too quiet of a neighborhood to be a "party house" and I doubt a pregnant woman, with all the nesting urges going on, would like to live in a house with that kind of atmosphere.  Still, who wouldn't want their own place to live, especially with a baby on the way?

The area has spaces between each house which gives it an open feel, maybe even vulnerable in some way.  Still, I can see that such a place would provide a sense of safety: the road is not marked with a street sign and there are houses all around.

It is strange to get a glimpse of a person's life in this way.  When you try to write about a person you did not know well who is gone, it sometimes is a matter of filling in the outline of that person until they really stand before you, metaphorically.  Looking at the small, cozy house where Asha lived out the last of her days, I get a sense that some part of her life might have felt a little safe for her at that time, and I am glad.  I could be wrong, but I find myself hoping that happened for her.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Where She Lived

I took a short drive today, trying to find the street where Asha moved, sometime in March or April, 2006; she had a room in what the media described as a "cozy house."  I realized tonight that I went down the wrong section of the street, which is divided in half by trees.  It is the only street in that section not mapped by Google Map's Street view, though I can see a little ways down it from Glen Arbor Road, which is mapped.  Her home is in a neighborhood that, during all the turbulent times I went through many years ago, I wished I could have lived in.  It seems a very safe, family-oriented area, on a bus line, easy for getting around, something I did not have in Lompico, when I often did not have a functional car for long periods of time.  When I have a bit of time on Friday, I am going to take a walk there.  It may be very emotional for me.  That house was her safe place, I think.  I'm in some ways glad it was not on Google Maps, as I might have sat behind my computer instead of taking a drive down that road.

What is happening for me now is that I am beginning to see more into Asha's life, to some degree.  She spent nearly the entirety of her pregnancy in that neighborhood.  One of my friends from Cabrillo College had a daycare place in that neighborhood; my daughter's best friend lived a couple of blocks away.  I have many ties to that general neighborhood.

My therapist (whom I really appreciate right now as a way to have an outlet for all the emotions coming up from this) said that one of the deeper reasons for this book is not only to honor Asha and her daughter, and try to assure they are not forgotten, but to return to the young woman I was, the just-grown-to-adulthood woman with a little child, who wanted to get away, to go anywhere with her child than where she was, to get away from the people whose lives she had fallen into, who did not want her around...that this book springs partially from that deeper well and all its attendancies.  So it is with writing: even nonfiction is definitely a two-way mirror.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Full Chapter Online

I have put the complete first chapter of Ravine online at my other blog site.  Please click on the link to see it: ashaveilbook.blogspot.com.  It is in the post titled Candle, Full Chapter, which I have edited to include the second part.  Thank you to all who have read it so far; I greatly appreciate it.


Recent Dance Photo

I think this is one of my favorite dance photos. I am the one in pink with the pink and yellow tassel belt, and am facing forwards. I am coming out of a spin here, so my hair, headpiece veil, tunic, and tassel belt are all in motion (the tunic is made of a special fabric called assuit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulle_bi_telli).  I always look so young in these photos!  I'm feeling a lot healthier these days and am getting my strength back as a dancer.  For that, I am very grateful.