Thursday, October 23, 2014

End of an Era

Tonight was the end of an era: a long-running African-inspired dance class in Santa Cruz.  I had wonderful times in that class, but for the last year, had to avoid it because of the fear that something highly unpleasant might happen to me during a personal conflict with someone.  There was absolutely nothing done to help me get back there when I asked for help.

Anyways, I have a wonderful American Tribal Style bellydance class on Thursdays at the Tannery, and I have Haitian dance there on Fridays; I feel safe there, and I don't have to worry about someone trying to take these things away from me.

Nathan Cirillo, In Memory

I am deeply saddened and shocked by the violence in Canada today, as are many people tonight.  Here is an article about the young soldier who was murdered today.  Please keep his loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nanowrimo, again.

I was going to host a Saturday write-in for nanowrimo locally, but backed out. My weekends have a possibility of getting busy soon..more on that later...but I also had a sudden intuition that first, my write-in would likely never have been put on the calendar and erased if I put it there myself due to control issues (nothing like engaging in a "calendar war"), and second, I would be a sitting duck if I were trying to run a group and be put into an awkward situation if there was upsetting behavior.

I know at least five people who will not be doing nanowrimo in Santa Cruz because of what happened last year, as P.  had a lot to say about it before getting out of the mess here and other friends got very pissed.  Nanowrimo should be a safe place for everyone, but it is not safe for me to attend or host write-ins, the meet and greet, kickoff party, after-party, or anything else. It is a shame, but there's a point where I have to be realistic until my experience proves otherwise....and so far, so bad.  It sucks, but I have to get my book done and not have these sorts of concerns.  I wish there was some way to reconcile all these things, in kind ways.

Believe me, I would really, REALLY love to have something different happen.  I would love to be able to participate and get support and some fun with other writers in November.

Anyways, I got the rest of the transcripts of phone calls between Melissa and Michael McClish.  One of them was McClish and Melissa going through folders of his love letters and poems to women, and picking out one he penned to an underage girl, which she agreed to have go "missing" in case the folder got put into evidence.  I am increasingly glad this man got put behind bars (there were actual cases of at least two underage women needing extensive counseling due to workplace sexual harrassment by him), and I have to hope that his wife got help with these issues of trying to protect someone who should never have been protected at all.

Oh, and McClish made sure to ask his wife to store his massive porn collection away from light and heat in their storage unit.  Not to act the prude, but GOD--he had just killed a woman and child, and was in jail for first-degree rape!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Last Rose

My garden continues on, with a few stragglers of Heavenly Blue morning glories, a Sungold tomato plant still putting out bright yellow flowers.  The other yellow flower is the rose I planted after my miscarriage in 2009...it is proving to be a healthy, fast-growing plant, with several blossoms right now.

I am taking a break from writing tonight..much intensity the last few days, even though I'd only produced a few pages.  I do think I have enough to start making a trajectory/outline and work up a nonfiction proposal.

Wishing everyone a good night.


(This is a new segment of Ravine, following the piece yesterday about Asha going missing and how I held a candle at her vigil service).

        Of course, it’s not entirely true about the candle: writers don’t tell everything all at once. It’s part of the ancient conjuring-trick, the smoke and mirrors of language, out of which the wisp of an image appears. I did use the candle in its original form at the vigil, but the flame kept going out during the service and I finally held it unlit. The watermelon-pink wax felt greasy, as if made of fat and not paraffin. Sometime during the next week, I stored the candle on a kitchen shelf, close to a window; summer heat melted the oily wax and sunlight bleached it an ugly grayish mauve.
       Recently, I picked the candle up again from the shelf, polished the dusty glass container, and put it in a shallow pan of water, to melt the wax down again. As it liquefied, I took a fork and retrieved the wick; then I dropped candle dye and beeswax granules into the container and stirred; the wax took on the “ashes of roses” hue: pink with just a hint of gray. I placed the wick and put the candle aside to harden.
       Next, I made a color print of Asha, a favorite which illustrates one of the most striking things about her: no picture of her seems to show exactly the same person. I’ve seen about a dozen photos now: Asha jumping on the bed in a hotel room, remote control in hand, hair flying upwards; Asha wide-eyed, smiling into the camera, hair in a pixie cut; Asha on her wedding day, delicate strands braided on each side of her head and pinned; Asha in khaki coveralls and a matching cap, standing in front of an autumn tree in full leaf-flame. It’s as if certain features are highlighted in each one: smooth, straight hair, brows in such a perfect arch that I wonder if she had them done, a tender, smiling mouth. The portrait I chose for the candle had been taken by her husband: Asha looks directly at the camera, intensity simmering in her expression, hair tucked behind her ears. She looks as if there is a question she might want to ask, one that hangs in the air, forever unspoken.
       I cut out her printed picture and glued it to the candle’s glass container; on the other side, I pasted one of the Virgin of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna with her double-scarred cheek and spangled midnight veil, her child cradled in her left arm, both heads surrounded by a nimbus of weathered gold. People risked their lives in occupied Poland to venerate this icon, slipping through fields under cover of darkness. It is said that Saint Luke painted it on a tabletop that belonged to the Holy Family, that the slashed cheek, from a sword strike by Hussites, proved impossible to fix. Mary gazes out of the picture, expressionless except for the sorrow in her small dark eyes.
       Then, I surrounded each portrait with a glitter frame: magenta for Asha, dark green for the Virgin of Czestochowa. When I lit the wick, they seemed to float, hovering over the reservoir of liquid wax
       I flanked this candle with two Polish funerary lanterns, ovals of deep amethyst glass embossed with tapered petals.  On All Saints Day, there is a tradition in Poland of lighting thousands of these lanterns in cemeteries, in different shapes and every color imaginable.  These burn all night, making graveyards into a luminous river, a path for souls to navigate.
      This is how I invoke Asha, call to her across time and loss, as I did in the days after she disappeared: “Where are you? What has happened? Where on earth have you gone?”

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I was quite the chanteuse tonight at the monthly bellydance show, Raks Santa Cruz. It was packed to the gills, and my troupe was to sing a song (with accompaniment of the CD) to Dance in the Graveyards by Del Ray, and get people out of their chairs to dance.Several people dropped out, so there were just three of us. We came into the audience from three different directions, so yours truly had to come out all by myself, singing out.  I did fine and connected with the audience well. My voice cracked once, NOT badly, but nobody sings perfectly...I heard Ella Fitzgerald screw up the lyrics to "Mack the Knife" so much that she started laughing. It's like screwing up a choreography...just smile and pick it up again.

M.would have been so proud of me tonight...not only singing solo, but singing out in front of a packed audience and connecting. I know I missed him there tonight, very much.

September Light

This is the new section of Ravine, which follows the introduction (I have that a few posts back; it involves a scene under moonlight, just to orient the reader).  Thank you to my readers for your patience with these rough drafts and first efforts...posting them here keeps me writing! :)
September Light

     To record an event such as this, past but not distantly so, is like picking up one of those fallen leaves which has survived a long winter pressed to the ground.  They’re a rare find, the once-living matter browned and mummified, then worn away, leaving a net in the shape of a leaf, a skeleton of itself.  Turn it one way, and it becomes a spiderweb; turn it again, and it transforms into a map with no direction, the guy lines splayed. Turn it to the side, and it shows nothing but a brittle edge. So it is with this story.
     If you could spool the thread of time slightly backwards from the moon, the creek, and that road of dust and sand, you would enter into the way September blooms in the San Lorenzo Valley.  The summer light, full of clarity, begins to take on a golden aspect: a Rembrandt light, some say.  Days become overlaid with a delicate veneer of cold and nights promise colder weather to come.  Skin feels like parchment in the dry air and hair crackles with static; the whole body can raise a spark from touched metal.  Foxtails blanch to white; their seed heads break and scatter.  If a dog or cat picks one up in its fur, the foxtail can augur into flesh, traveling deep: some seeds don't let go.  Creeks, starved for water, turn shallow and mountain lions slip down from rocky hillsides, following the deer, so silent they truly earn their nickname: ghost cats.  Everything enters that scorched cycle: overnight, an emerald summer grows pale.
     When the light's transformation begins, I fall forever back into that time, September, the month of changes, when Asha Veil, an employee of the Ben Lomond Market, clocked out after her shift, put on her backpack, and vanished into the gathering dark, almost without a trace.

     I would be the first to admit I did not know Asha well; later, I would say that I did not know her as well as I might have liked.  I stood in her checkout line several times; we made small talk, as people do, usually about weather or news.  One day, I walked into the market, steeped in a low mood; Asha greeted me as she arranged produce in the outdoor display: something yellow, grapefruit or melons.  Her kindness certainly helped; I wasn't as sad during my errand.  People would say later that she had this effect on them, a small grace-note in their day
     The first time I really had a moment to study her was the morning I sat at my kitchen table, drinking coffee and scratching out a grocery list with a skipping pen. Kat, my younger daughter, walked into the kitchen and thrust a folded sheet of paper in my hand.  I opened it to see Asha, with her wide, pleasant smile in a friendly face, the white collar, maroon neckband and green apron of her market uniform just visible above the photo's margin.  Heavy black text beneath her picture described a woman visibly pregnant, five foot seven, 140 pounds, green eyes, red shoulder-length hair, pierced nostril, decorative tattoo around her left bicep.  The flyer stated that she, a reliable employee, had missed work and several appointments.
     "But I just saw her the other day!" I said.  
     “Mama, I’m worried,” Kat said, “She’s almost seven months along.”
     Asha carried "to the back," as my grandmother used to say, and I did not know she was pregnant until the very last time I shopped at the market.  I'd been rolling my cart along, exchanging greetings with other customers and with Mike, the store manager, whistling as he pushed a dust mop near the meat counter, and Betsy, the woman who worked in the nutrition aisle.  I wandered around a bit aimlessly until I reached the hardware section.  New items filled a top shelf: packs of votive lights, Sterno emergency lanterns, candles in glass containers like the ones in a Catholic church.  Most were white, one had a jaundiced green tint—I couldn't see that cheering up the house at all during a power failure, which often lasted up to five days in the mountains—and one, with a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, had a too-short wick.  I finally chose the candle at the end of the row, a bright watermelon pink.  I liked to plan ahead before the onset of winter storms.
     When I lined up at Asha's register, two small girls in front of me (first graders, I guessed) held bright packs of gum in their hands, the kind I knew would tenaciously resist every effort to get out of their hair. The girls had dimes and nickels in a red Hello Kitty purse, but when Asha rang up the total, they were short by twenty-five cents.  I saw Asha reach into her pocket and add a quarter to the cash drawer. 
     The girls left and my purchases moved along the conveyor belt, including the candle, which I'd put on its side.  Asha said hello and I noticed a definite, firmly-poking-out belly beneath her market apron. I decided to ask the question which had hovered in the back of my mind for weeks: "Are you pregnant?"
     Her face looked warmly radiant as she nodded and answered in the affirmative.  Asha had an Eastern European accent and I'd found out some time ago that she was from Poland.
     "When is your baby due?" I asked, and she said, "December."  She told me she was carrying a girl.
     We exchanged animated mother-talk about infants; I told her that my youngest son had been born on Christmas Day several years before.  As we talked, Asha carefully wrapped up the pink candle in a sheet of butcher paper. 
     "Don't want that to get broken," she said, and I thanked her. 
     "Enjoy your baby girl!" I said as I picked up my grocery bag and left.

     I would unwrap and use that candle only once, at a twilight vigil service for Asha and her unborn daughter.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Good Writing Day

By "good" I mean a day where I actually got some work done!! I do work most days, but facing these chapters is a scary process of finding the thread in, but I think i got it.  I'll post some of the writing tonight.  I'm not sure if that is a problem with actually publishing it later, but I still want to share with my audience here, whom I appreciate more than I can say.  i will post later this evening, after Thistle goes to bed.


Note to someone: a person who posts endless selfies (I mean, like several times a day) is probably an incredible narcissist.  No matter how nice they seem at first, it's one hell of a red flag.  Have fun, and don't say I didn't warn you.  There is a large difference between good self-esteem and looking in your mirror all day, and expecting people to worship you.

ANYWAYS--I really have been thinking of narcissism today, sparked by this, and whether Asha's killer was one.  I would assume most sociopaths/psychopaths are, and anyone who had multiple affairs like he did is very likely this.  Surely he was the center of his life: why get rid of someone who supposedly threatened what he had?

Delving into court records, I see so much that never, ever got to the trial, probably because it would have been classified as hearsay.  It's fascinating to see how the prosecution aligned all the admissable evidence with case law--they wanted to make an airtight case against McClish.  What didn't get in are the calls Asha told someone about, beginning shortly before her death, with someone calling from a blocked number and staying on the line without talking.  I've had those before when I was younger, but in this case, it was frankly sinister.  I'm patchworking her life from these things.

I was gratified to know, according to my writing group, that I did not give away the entire plot in the first two pages.  I have time for myself this weekend to write (been working on mending Thistle's clothes).  Hard to proceed, but I have a thread to follow and think I can do it.

One note:  unfortunately, after almost six months of excellent control, I inexplicably entered into a huge flare of lupus and am currently on a week of prednisone.  I can't just ride out flare ups anymore because of my kidneys (they were originally at about 40 percent function, but now my doctor estimates that because of chemotherapy, they are better but still damaged).  The prednisone seems to be helping a lot, and because I take it in divided doses instead of one big wallop, and a small dose, I am not particularly worried about it eliciting a bipolar episode.

Off to my favorite cafe in the world, The White Raven, hopefully for some productive work....

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nice Night

Had a long afternoon with Thistle--she has Lego Robotics after school and also likes to play with the afterschool kids.  Had to extricate her with the promise of a pumpkin cookie and milk at the French bakery.

I then went to my writing group of women I have known for years and brought the intro to Ravine, which they thought was really good.  It's often scary to bring something like this, but it's really gratifying to have more than one person think it's workable.

CG and I are having conflicts as usual about playdates for Thistle in the house.  He has always been unduly paranoid about "being robbed" and "identity theft" and I have never been able to have family or friends here except for the kids and my son's girlfriend (this is the time when it really makes me know that it is his house, not mine, and never will be).  CG, by the way, has never been robbed, nor has this house ever been robbed, either.  I've decided to have social activities in my Lompico house as soon as I can, dinners and playdates and such and maybe even a writing group, because I have become very tired of trying to accept for the last 12 years under the rule of "no visitors" in the hopes that one day he will change his mind.  I can only change my life to shape it as I want.  Thistle needs to have friends over, is the bottom line, and I need to be happy.  It is also imperative that I show her what a normal life is.  I can't wait around for my housemate/owner of this house to change, much as I care about him.  I can parent with him, yet have my own life, too.

Well, anyways, it was nice to see friends tonight, and share writing and my one glass of red wine which I allow myself every month that I go to the group (it's usually Haitian dance 3X a month and one writing group).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Invention Convention

The first big to-do at Thistle's school is the "Invention Convention"--sort of a science fair in which students create models of different inventions. Thistle's class has been studying about the Pacific Gyre and all the kids submitted ideas to help clean it up.  Thistle's's idea--create a boat with big sponges to soak up nasty chemicals and a net to catch all the plastic--got voted on by the class as the one they wanted to make a model of.  They called it the Octoboat. They all helped build a model, which won the "Sparkling Seas" award today. Very proud of her and all the kindergarten friends and teachers who made it happen.

Here it is after all the people at tonight's gathering got through soaking up the "yucky stuff," represented by a lot of glitter in the water table. A lot of the plastic sea creatures unfortunately went belly-up by the end of the evening, and the net is in the resting position.

Good job, Miss Thistle. You're a smart cookie.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Voice and Emotion

I have been singing now with the Voice Weavers for about a year now.  My voice has grown and changed so much that I cannot believe it is the same little held-back squeak it was a year ago.  I am collaborating with my youngest son on a CD of children's songs and lullabys I unknowingly "composed" for Thistle when she first came to me.  This is probably the hugest leap of my life in the last ten years or so.

One of my dance troupes is doing a dance and song at Michael's on Main in Soquel, and I am the only one who has a trained voice (my troupe brother is a trained musician and says I have a gorgeous singing voice.  I am sorry M. has never really heard it, but perhaps one day).

I was feeling tired and sad tonight at rehearsal and just want to comment that trying to get to a positive space when singing seems very important.  My voice seems to want to hide when I am not in a very positive mood, though singing does lift me up and my voice will get stronger as I feel better.

No earth-shaking news here, just an observation that mood and singing seem interconnected in some ways.


Nothing earth-shattering today...just a day of intermittent rain, which was a blessing.

I need to be doing more writing on my book, which I will attend to, tonight.

I've got myself registered and ready for nanowrimo this year, November's National Novel Writing month, and my information put up on the site.  and plan to host a weekend write-in at the Abbey in Santa Cruz, time and day TBD.  I will not be trying to write the full count of 50,000 words for a book of this intensity. I already have had meltdowns nearly every year due to my own competitiveness, and besides, I've already started Asha's book.

Still, it is a good opportunity to build some chapters and also help Nanowrimo in Santa Cruz to rebound from the disaster it became last year.  I am glad the other, former Municipal Liasion is now engaged to her boyfriend, happy, living away from Santa Cruz, and seems to have recovered from the scenario which--unbeknownst to both her and me--had gone on for the entire previous year.  I am extremely grateful she "escaped" the scene here--I know it was very uncomfortable for both her and her boyfriend, who was quite upset about it.

Weirdly, I thought I would never again look forward to Nanowrimo in Santa Cruz, but I am very glad it is happening.  There is always the possibility of a fresh start, no matter who you are--even the party to last year's weirdness.  It is always possible to find redemption, to make a new start, and to make positive changes, no matter what has happened.  No one is the sum of their errors and mistakes, and it is amazing how much can really be put right again.

Rain and Silence

The house is dark and quiet except for my one lamp.  Thistle has expressed interest in my other house, the one I should have been in by now.  It sits quietly, waiting for me.  I get sad about it; I want to spend more time there.  As much as CG has tried to make things better in this time, this place never feels like my home, only CGs place that I have filled with my possessions.  I feel like I have just taken it over and really, it is his, not mine.  Yet Thistle will be his daughter and his sole heir, and this house is hers by default.  It is a complicated and often very tiring and disheartening situation.  Yet I do have my rooms here, and a place I can work, but I want my own house to be a place I can go to and be, if I need to. I try to make the best of it.  I took on responsibility for a little girl who was cast out into the world all by herself before she was even two years old.  I will never let anything bad happen to her, even if it means curtailing the things I want for myself.

Well, the rain is starting, just a little, in our drought-torn area.  I pray for more.  It is a good sound to interrupt the deep silence of this autumn night.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Thinking of M. tonight, sending him a visualization of violet light for peace and tranquil sleep. I have done this every night since May 2009, even when I was upset, sad, angry, or frightened. It is a good habit. Everyone needs a touch of kindness in their lives. I say other prayers and such at night, but always start with that.

Speaking of light, I finished my candle for Asha, to light when I write about her. I have her portrait surrounded by fuchsia glitter as a frame, and Our Lady of Czestochowa on the other side, with a frame of deep emerald glitter.

I have been reading about some Polish traditions and have found that All Saints Day is celebrated by decorating graves with flowers, and with candles that burn all night, many housed in beautiful glass lanterns.  Here are a few photos:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

To Reconstruct a Person

I've come to see that trying to write about a person who is no longer here, about a baby girl who never got a chance to live, is like spinning a 3-D image of a human being out of spiderweb silk, out of thread and spun glass. You can never be sure that you will get everything accurately, or even close.  I will try. I look into Asha's eyes in the photographs I have of her, and promise her that I will try.  I ask her to bring forward the people who knew and loved and adored her, and that I am given the kindness, compassion, and sensitivity to listen to their words.  So much falls into place with this book every week, it seems: another piece that I need comes to me.

What do I know of Asha?  She always had a smile on her face except for one night at the checkstand; this was long before I knew she was pregnant.  She seemed a little distant, or sad--maybe tired.  All the other times, she was happy, talking to people.  Once day my food stamp card did not work, or so the sourpuss cashier said (there were some sourpusses there that did not like the fact that I had an EBT card).  Asha was bagging, I think, and took over to help--she put my purchase through expertly in a couple of minutes, with a smile.  There were other, brief interactions:  she said hello to me once, outside, as she was arranging produce in rows (grapefruits, I think).  The last interaction with her, the one I remember most, is of her pregnant, the day I bought the candle from her that I would hold at her memorial service.

The few photographs of her online tell me small stories: there is one with her husband after his accident; he looks tired, in a wheelchair.  There is her wedding photo in the case file of the murder trial: a reminder of what must have been one of the happiest days of her life.  It was a good reminder for the judge--I wonder if he put those in there for himself to look at.

Where does all that happiness go when tragedy strikes?  Tragedy struck her marriage; I can't help but think of how she must have felt, leaving her husband under such circumstances, finding herself pregnant after something terrible had happened to her, and deciding, with great courage, to keep the baby.  In the case files for the trial, people reported that she heard the baby's heartbeat and fell in love with her child, then and there.

I feel I must speak to the people who knew her and try to know this woman outside the shadow of the evil that took her away.  Yes, she and Anina will always have this shadow cast on their lives.  Yet she existed, she lived, she loved people, there were things she liked in particular that I want to know about: what she liked to eat, what she liked to wear, what music she enjoyed, even what her flaws were, for we all have these--not to judge, but to show her as human.  I want to know if there are recordings of her as a musician, as a singer.  She was NOT some "mistress" nor was she "just a cashier"--she was a living, breathing person.  Those two things, which the press concentrated on, do not do justice to what really happened to her, or who she truly was.  Not once did either of our local presses do a story on Asha herself, who she was, what she wanted out of life.  I feel that people need to know these stories because the world needs to know what was lost when these crimes happen.

This, by the way, is the mark of at least a good project as a writer: when it seizes you and won't let you go until the very last word is written down.

The Question of Evil

It was nice to see nearly all members of my old writing group today...yes, all.  I have missed them.  And you, too, M., serendipitous as it was.

I am thinking tonight of a question posed in the comments: what made Asha's killer into such a twisted entity that he would, since puberty, attempt to assault women, had violent fantasies of such, liked to be "in control" of women, routinely harrassed women so much at his work that I wonder how he got anything else done there, cheat on the wife he supposedly loved so many times....all leading up, of course, to what he did to Asha, and the destruction of her, her child, his family, and so many, many people who adored Asha with good reason--she was a wonderful person.

I know McClish was adopted out of horrible circumstances, that he did not know who his birth parents were and did not want to, that he told a close friend when he was young that he felt "second best" in his family.  I feel that the latter is likely not true in real life--perhaps it WAS something he felt, but not something actually.  There are reports on him being "off" starting in high school.

So, his history of violence goes back very far.  The other members of his family seem well-adjusted.  Do his violent tendencies spring from some sort of brain injury from his early childhood, or something from neglect or abuse?  Millions of people grow up with abuse.  Millions of people are adopted out of a terrible childhood.  Millions of people don't feel totally loved by their parents, or even loved at all.  These things are only hints at how his brain might have formed a propensity.  His alcoholism certainly didn't help matters.  There is also a sense of brutality associated with certain groups of people in this place we live.  I believe that being in such a crowd did not help matters, either.

I have come to believe that McClish is a sociopath and that he was likely born that way, and his life path and choices supported and developed his pathology. Whether he was ever offered help or support to be something different, I don't know.  Perhaps I will know as I interview family.  No matter what, he was led to this path he clearly chose.  I can muster no sympathy for him.  I will have to say that in my book, too. Personally, I believe some people are evil, and he has evil in him.

I have been reading a lot about serial killers lately, judiciously (yes, I balance this out with more positive readings and activity).  Gary Ridgeway, the Green River killer, had a wife who adored him; she thought he was her knight in shining armor, and the guy was going out and killing prostitutes in his spare time.  It was REALLY hard to see her interview.  I can't even imagine it.

Watching this shows makes me think of my own life, and that I am lucky to not have had to deal with anyone like McClish, Bundy, etc., as in waking up one day and finding someone I love has been arrested for such a horrible crime.  Somehow, such a thing haunts me. I knew McClish and there were times in my life I was so vulnerable emotionally that he could have preyed on me, too...or my younger daughter, to whom he offered rides (I am glad for her street smarts, for she never took a ride from him).