To read an excerpt from the book, please click on the following link:

ashaveilbook.blogspot.com


Friday, November 16, 2018

Leaving My Writing Group, 1985-2018

It's true, dear readers: I've been considering, for some time, leaving a writing group I've been in for literally over three decades. I had left the group previously for a couple of years due to a flare-up of a chronic illness, and then returned. The group welcomed me back wholeheartedly. I felt I was doing well, for a while. I brought in my rough draft about Asha Veil's murder, a book proposal for the same. But something had changed in the group on a very deep level, and I knew it.

Originally this group was the most rollicking, productive, aware--dare I even say the word juicy--writing group anyone would want. There were poems and more poems shared and critiqued, short stories, entire books going through and worked over little by little. We were like a cluster of shooting stars. I can say with certainty that I would never have become the writer I am today without these women.

But the years have not been kind to the writing group and, even with the addition of new members, gradually began to lose its spark. People have more money now, became more comfortable, were living more settled lives; the writing of many women became something I could no longer relate to, nor felt I was doing well at critiquing. Catholicism, a religion I long ago left due to its oppressive nature, had taken deep root in some of the women. I felt like a heretic, with my pentagram on a charm necklace and my own spiritual beliefs. Still, when I left our sessions, I felt rejuvenated, happy: I wanted to sit down right away and put pen to paper. Sometimes after the group meeting, I wrote late into the night.

Cutting to the chase, our group had a very successful poetry reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz earlier this month. The audience was large and attentive, and I feel that it really showcased all the strengths of the group. It meant much to me, as I haven't written a poem since my mother died eleven years ago, as if the umbilical cord of my poetry was severed along with her life. I had the wonderful experience at the reading of strangers coming up to me after the reading and praising my work. I felt like a poet again. It was a wonderful night of solidarity and good writing.

Prior to this, uncomfortable things happened at the group meeting just before the reading. These frankly were like a shovel of manure on the excitement of the upcoming event. One of those experiences involved the self-appointed "leader" of the group smugly announcing that changes were afoot if the group were to survive. We'd been through this before: someone would get into a snit  over something, the self-styled leader would propose changes, we'd smooth out some rough spots, and all would continue on, generally in a new and improved manner.

But not this time.

The day after the reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz, the group chimed in via email about what the experience had meant to us. That was a good exchange. Then the self-appointed leader--a woman who has been problematic to me and others over the years, treating me well and kindly at one turn, then with prickliness at other times, unpredictably--issued some ground rules for the group which we would discuss at the next meeting. These included not socializing as much before the actual critiquing, and some other things I've forgotten (all quite reasonable). Curiously, and prominently, the list included something about people who do not host the group, and bringing "snacks" as opposed to a dinner item of some kind.

This last bit needs an aside explanation: the group rotates homes to meet in. Some of us (including me) really don't have an appropriate home for a group to meet consistently (mine is in the boondocks and I've a young child). The group brings food to each meeting, and everyone contributes what they can. There has NEVER--I can say with certainty--been any "rules" about what to bring. We enjoy what's there...or so I thought, lol...

Back to the story: shortly thereafter, I wrote to the "leader" of the group and suggested some things to perhaps help the group become more productive. I don't remember what. Trying to be helpful has occasionally got me into hot water, and it was no different this time.

I received a salvo from the "leader," who said she was emailing me because I alone was doing something which had been deemed a problem. She then ragged on me for bringing "snacks" to the group instead of a dinner item, and that my food contribution seemed an afterthought (which it never has been, but I wasn't about to try and convince her of that). She said that those who don't host the group were expected to contribute more food than others (a rule which I didn't know about). She went on with more of my perceived failures to bring "nice" and "homemade" food to the group, then ended the email abruptly, like slamming a phone receiver down.

I wrote her back, apologized, said that my food contribution (which ran to almonds, olives, fruit salad, etc), if inadequate, was a social gaffe rather than deliberate, and that I would remedy things by bringing more substantial food to the group, then sent off the email. My response was kind, polite, and hopefully clear.

My email was met with another salvo from the "leader." She ragged on me again that she had told me about this years ago (if she said that, I don't remember and I'm honestly sure she never did) and nothing had changed. She said that the group had, a few times, raised the topic of the inadequate food I brought to the group. There may have been another email along those lines from her as well, but I've no desire to go back and look. At the end of the email, she asked me for my thoughts.

I very much wanted to point out her peevish, nasty nitpicking, and the fact that I didn't remember her telling me anything at all about my food offerings. Nor did I put forth the question as to why the group had not, in all the years I'd been with them, said a word to me about the food I brought. But I replied politely, telling her yet again I would remedy the situation. She wrote back and said "all of us (in the group) looked forward to this change."

At that point, I realized I was never going back to the group. I knew I could not, for one thing, cook a meal for these women, ever. The food would be created for people who had resented something I was apparently, and unknowingly, doing and hadn't bothered to tell me, but instead used it as a topic of gossip among themselves--for years! Why would I ever want to nourish people who did such insulting things? And why would I allow people like that to critique my writing, ever again?

I also knew that whatever I cooked wouldn't be good enough for these women. I could cater a ten-course meal and now I understood that they'd find something wrong with it. Whatever I brought would become another item for behind-my-back gossip and criticism. I realized I clearly been at the bottom of the pecking order for a long time and was likely to remain there. So, after deliberating over the weekend, talking to two close friends (who encouraged me to leave) and weighing the choice very carefully, I wrote a group email with what I hoped was a brief, kind goodbye which expressed gratitude for the considerable help and support the group had given me over the years. My words were real and from my heart. And all the sentiments were genuine.

Readers, I'm going to be sixty years old on my next birthday. There is a reckoning that comes at this stage of life. I realize that whatever years I have are precious and I need to use wisely whatever time I've got left. My sister, who died ten years ago, had always encouraged me to leave after the two elders of the group passed away, that she felt many of the other women were toxic and she saw me running around trying to please them, to "get" them to care about me. I never wanted to admit my sister was right about this, but she was.

After my goodbye went out, one woman wrote me a beautiful email and encouraged me to finish my books, and that she would miss me very much. I wrote back and asked her to stay in touch. Another woman wrote me and kindly said similar things.

From the self-styled "leader" and other members: crickets.

And I don't care, at all.

I was pleased to see a critique group and a poetry group which meet at the library here in Santa Cruz. No idea of how these are, but I plan to attend and check them out. Whatever possibilities exist for me in terms of a group, I'll try. And I have a fiction writing group that meets once a month: all encouraging, all wonderful people, with a spectrum of ages and interests.

It was a hard decision to leave, dear readers, and yet an easy one, at the last.

And so it is.





Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Damsels in Distress

 

Thought I would post something humorous in these troubled times 
(warning: probably for mature audiences).

Friday, October 05, 2018

October

I haven't updated this blog in a while because, frankly, I haven't felt like writing anything at all. Our country is slowly turning into a dictatorship run by thugs and a criminal President. An alcoholic predator will soon sit on the Supreme Court.

Heck, I don't even trust the "presidential alert" that came through millions of cell phones yesterday. The government can already track our whereabouts, but to me, it was just another example of, "We can be invasive any time." Yes, I know it was a FEMA alert. But what on earth would we ever need a nationwide alert for? A nuclear bomb? What good would that do? A doomsday meteor, as Colbert said?

One of my friends did not get the "presidential alert" and I told him that perhaps when Trump announces some sort of national emergency, my friend can be the only one in the US to escape. Then he'd sit in Canada trying to figure out how to save us all.

I fear these times. One of my dance teachers has been called racial and homophobic slurs for the last three months now when he's been just minding his business out in public. He says this has gotten much worse since Trump was elected. I believe it.

Hatred, utter ignorance, arrogance, and fear have permeated our country.

My solace? November 6 is nearly upon us, and we'll see what happens then...

Meanwhile, Mueller works in secret and silence...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Updates Soon

I'm saddened that I have not updated this blog. I'm working on two books now and am soon to create a website for my second book, a romantic comedy set in Santa Cruz, California. But I'm so depressed about the state of our country that it is hard to write here. Yet I'll try to do it.

I no longer feel safe as a writer and a "citizen journalist" in the nation we are becoming. There might be a point where, if people do not "Heil Trump" in whatever form that takes, we could face consequences. This is not paranoia: I'm not an unreasonable or paranoid person. However, I've lived through a lot of administrations, and have never experienced growing oppression like this, especially for women and children.

I don't intend to have much contact with my family of origin until this nation is sorted out again. We are family against family, but that's unfortunately nothing new. I've always been branded as the weird one, the crazy one, the liar. It makes me sick because I've tried to reach out to my family with the truths about my life, only to be told I'm not telling the truth (as in when I was raped as a young girl). I love my family deeply, but as long as our President is in office, we are divided.

I don't think anyone on either side of this political spectrum wants to see family against family, or friend against friend. But here we are.

I will continue to write my truths during this time, no matter the consequences, but there is a point where I must protect my loved ones.

The country I once knew is going, going, and nearly gone.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Welcome Back


I want to say that I'm still a resident of Planet Earth! I have not updated this blog for several reasons. Rest assured that I want to keep it going and will try to update it more regularly.
Some of the reasons I have been away are simply due to depression over what is happening in our country. No matter what side of the fence you are on, most people seem to be in agreement that these are crazy, difficult times. It is hard for me to feel that I'm living a normal life.

I've also had a very deep blow to my confidence in writing Asha's story: a friend whom I thought was my 100 percent support and indeed my "rock" in writing t
Asha's story, turned out to not be supportive at all. I was basically told something on the level that I was a ghoul and presumptive to the level of thievery in using certain literary techniques in my book. I was heartbroken over this. I'm in no way a ghoul trying to write some salacious book about Asha and it makes me sick to think that anyone might think that. This book is to honor the life of a courageous woman who was so far from being just a "nice cashier," which is how the media too often represented her.

It's my goal and my greatest desire that Asha's book keeps her memory alive in the world also. It takes a long time to recover from what I experienced: even though it's better to find out the truth of a situation, my experience of essentially being told I'm an intrusive writer and a thief broke my heart.

But I'm not giving up on Asha's book. I've always felt that if I stop writing her story, I will somehow abandon her and Anina.

That is all I am going to say for now: except to express much love and appreciation for my readers who continue to come to this blog, and write me to ask where I've gone. I'm still here, and hope to be more "here" in future.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Catch-Up

I appreciate that so many people are continuing to read my blog, even though I have been absent.

Sometimes it seems that it's more usual in my life to have a slew of negative things happen around me than positive: last month,  it was the death of a friend's unborn daughter, as well as a lengthy and very saddening and discouraging argument over my writing with a friend.

In addition, my medical tests for lupus came back the worst in years. Before the results came back, my  doctor casually mentioned going back on chemo, which I thought was going to be real. Turns out, for some reason, that he wants to wait a while and see what the next round of tests brings up. I'm okay with that, but not grateful for the scare.

This month there was a dust-up, not my fault, which may have cost me two cherished friendships. Praying it has not happened. Such wonderful times and memories with these friends.

And little annoying things. All of it adds up. All of it feels as if on my shoulders.

Last night, for some odd reason, I got on Google Maps and looked at the old neighborhood where I grew up...a really pretty part of the San Fernando Valley. I traced my route from my house to school and back, and thought. Here I sit with the world falling apart around me all the time, and I learned in that house that crisis was normal, when it really isn't.

So resting, a heating pad each on my shoulder and knee, thinking about how to change these things. And praying that a little miracle happens and at very least, my friendships repair.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

You Can Close Your Eyes on Valentine's Day

Re: previous video (starring Alan Cumming, singing a piece from Cabaret):

I think he really does care, much (I believe that's the point of the song).


Anyways, I've posted this song before because it means a lot to me. Tonight, it's for the people who find this holiday difficult. Perhaps this song will reach those we'd really like to hear this.





Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Back: Happy Valentine's Day

Hi everyone...after a very long break, I'm happy to be back. It was a very difficult holiday season. I'm very glad it's over. I'm sure next year will be better.

In terms of holidays: well, tomorrow is Valentine's Day.  I know a lot of people for whom Valentine's Day is a sad occasion. My own feelings are summed up in the following song, I Don't Care Much, sung by Alan Cumming in the Broadway revival of Cabaret. In sharing this, remember: all is not as it seems.



Saturday, December 23, 2017

I have a bit of advice I am going to reiterate for friends and family of grieving people. Probably this applies to people around me, but I know a lot of people who are grieving on these holidays. As I have said before on this blog, my father died in May and I am just now coming out of numbness and into feelings about it.

My best piece of advice: please don't expect your grieving loved one, or loved ones, to be able to conduct Christmas in the usual manner, or tell them/imply by action that they should shake off their grief for the season, don't wallow in it, or whatever insensitive things people come up with.
People who are grieving may not be able to indicate that they don't want to hear such things. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you want to be treated.

Also, for people who grieve at this time, I have a link to a list that really helped me:

https://whatsyourgrief.com/64-tips-grief-at-the-holidays/

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bubble Light

Here is a (quite old) bubble light of mine, in situ on my Christmas tree. Bubble lights are sealed tubes of methylene chloride, which has a low boiling point. The tube rests in a holder containing a small electric bulb. When the light is plugged in, the heat of the bulb causes the methylene chloride to bubble.

The soundtrack is me serenading you, my faithful readers. Yes, I have a geeky laugh. Enjoy!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Holidays and Grief: Getting Through

I am grieving the death of my father--my only living parent since 2007--and the holidays are difficult. I am doing too much to numb myself to the reality of the holiday, and am extremely grateful that we have just one holiday to get through.

I don't even think I've come to the point of touching the grief...I have cried with a trusted friend who lost his father when he was 22. I don't wish to burden people further (except for those who come to this blog, who always have the option of not reading it). I know many friends of mine would be kind about it, yet at the same time, just don't want to put a shovelful of dirt on a shiny celebration, as it were.

The truth is, grief can feel like floating around on an iceberg when the rest of the world is experiencing spring. And yet the truth is, there are many, many people trying to put on brave faces this year. The government and society in general are having continuous upheavals, and I would wager that many, many people are feeling stressed simply because of that.

Will next year be different for me? Yes, because everything changes. I believe our country will either be more insane and oppressed next year, or on the way to restoring some sort of sanity. We will be farther along with the Mueller investigation (btw, Mueller is not someone I'd ever want to play against in a chess match: I'd be toast in about five moves, if that).

There are some positive things I am trying to do in this time, not the least of which is attending a drop-in support group (which operates the whole year) through our local hospice). If you are grieving during the holidays, your local hospice organization might very well be a place to find a group where you can be with others experiencing grief.

I'm, above all, not going to try and push myself too hard this season. That is probably the essence of getting through this time.






Friday, November 24, 2017

Post-Loss Holidays

I wake and breakfast on coffee and oatmeal. My house does not have the scent of Thanksgiving cooking. It has not, for many years. The first year it stopped, I went to the Zen center for Thanksgiving, which was wonderful--there is always a potluck on Thanksgiving, with the relatively calm and sane members of the Zen community.

In subsequent years, whoever is able to in my family goes to a buffet at an upscale hotel. I'm doing that this year, gratefully. This is the first Thanksgiving without my father to call on the phone. Nothing makes a person feel more gone than the holidays.

I really admire my dance troupe leader, S. At our last meeting before Thanksgiving, she said she was going to celebrate basically by holing up in her apartment and resting, doing the things she likes.

The last year and a half have been some of the most exhausting, confusing, beleaguered years of my adult life, and that is saying something. I have much to be grateful for, especially in the realm of dance and writing.

But nothing at all really obviates the loss of my father and three other friends this year who died. Next holiday I will say, "It has been two years," the next year three...and so on.

Let's hope next year's holidays are a little better for all who grieve today.


Thursday, November 09, 2017

Thou Doth Protest

I apologize to my many faithful readers for my absence. I've simply been dealing with life and all its ways. I am working to create space in my life for this blog, which I realize more and more is a connection with readers in the world outside the bedroom where I write this (in fact, I'm actually typing this while in bed, as rain falls outside).

So here are some updates:

I am doing well with my shoulder injury, though recovery is slow. It's still steady. I am happy with my physical therapy, though I absolutely hate how cold the place is. I have far more mobility.

Writing is going okay. I'm working steadily.

I must report that Halloween was wonderful and one of the best I've had this year.

And with that, please know I am doing great and am going to be much more in the habit of writing my letter to the world.

The world has become such a strange place, especially politically, and I'd love to be doing some commentary on that as long as it feels safe to do so.




Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Yes, Handmaid's Tale

To my Far-Away Friend, yes, the picture in the previous post is from the fine-edition printing of The Handmaid's Tale, published by the Folio Society. The illustrations are quite evocative and so I will be featuring them over the next few days.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Waltz

I feel badly about the post I recently deleted, not because the subject is not important to me, but because it feels unfair to the person I wrote about, for whom I care very much, and who has gone more than the extra mile to be kind to me. And still, my psychic wounds are very deep and raw right now.

So let's get to the heart of it, for me.

There was a situation between my friend and me which was painful beyond measure and which struck me to the very core of my feelings as a woman, a rape survivor, and simply someone who has had to live in a sexist culture my entire life. Yes, I know men suffer, too: but there was definitely no suffering on the part of the men, including my friend, involved in a particular scene that night. Their conversation indicated that it was perfectly fine, in their view, to buy and sell women for their own use, without any regard for the humanity and circumstances of these women. How this differs in their minds from trafficking, I don't know. Hearing it cut to the very heart of myself as a person; I felt demeaned. My friend apologized later, but I question now: what is his view, really, of women? Does he really respect women? Is it just lip service to sound good to women? Why must we all make such excuses for unacceptable behavior, as I have tried to do over and over? I feel like a raw wound when I contemplate these things, and have been sick at heart about it all. As much as I miss my dear friend right now, I am also afraid, and I do not like to feel that way.

He said he was sorry, over and over. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt, that it was real. But it's still a wound, for me.

But something happened just after he went on his trip, a simple thing that healed my heart and made me feel as if I was respected, and even beautiful again. Thistle's school holds a barn dance every Fall, and hires a terrific square dancing caller and a professional band of fiddlers, etc. The caller is a great guy, extremely kind, and incredibly patient at directing a bunch of kids and parents who don't know how to square dance. I was a bit sad that night because I was supervising kids and didn't have much time to dance. Square dancing is actually quite fun, I've discovered, over the years.

At then end of the square dancing, it seems that a waltz is customary, at least with this set of musicians, etc . The caller (who I have to say is tall and handsome, and gracious) came up to me, bowed like a goddamned gentleman, and said, "May I have this dance?" And I said yes. He wasn't the strongest lead, and I told him I hadn't waltzed in years, but he led me around the floor, and we talked and laughed, and even flirted a bit, very innocently. I had no trouble looking him in his (incredibly beautiful, crystal-blue) eyes, laughing, and feeling safe, all a rarity with me. He said not to be scared, that I waltzed very well. At the end, he bowed again, thanked me for the dance, and went off to pack up and get going.

Having been in the presence of a real gentleman who treated me respectfully, I ended up feeling so much better about myself. Certainly I should feel great about myself all the time, but when in the presence of crass, ugly talk that is offensive, it's easy to feel like you're covered with someone else's psychic slime.

The few moments I had, waltzing with a man who knew to treat me as a person of worth, a person to be respected, never overstepping boundaries, healed my very sad heart to a great degree.






Saturday, September 23, 2017

Revisiting

I've put my last post in drafts; it was harsher against a friend of mine than I really wanted, given that he was kind, tender, and so gentle and reassuring after the incident I described. And the making-up for something we do wrong often outweighs a bad (or boneheaded) mistake.

In my next post, I am going to describe a time with a true gentleman, recently, after the bad incident--just a waltz, but one which helped me feel like a cherished and beautiful woman again, a few days after a very bad incident where I felt demeaned and ugly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Dragonfly at the Heart of It All

Much sadness: a day without email is like a day without sunshine, lol. Then I get edgy: what the hell did I do now...when something else was the case: no wireless, phone misplaced, in transit, then here I am again. Sometimes they come in late at night: a large time difference separates us. I conjure phantoms I tell no one, nag no one about, knowing that worries are just that: ghosts. I don't want to haunt anyone: the gentleness shown me is the gentleness I will return. I don't know what is going to happen, what's the path: what is, is good beyond anything I hoped for.

Then a dragonfly sticker in the window of where they are staying: it says these days are different, don't fear. They know this is the most potent symbol I have: the one my sister and I made a pact around. If I die first, I will send you the sign of a dragonfly, to know there is a life beyond this one, to say we are here. Lonely and sad despite email after email, my heart rises when they send me a sticker of a dragonfly in the apartment they are in: complete serendipity. I don't feel so lonely. Above any person except myself, they know what it means to me

Not even telling them I miss them because I don't want to ruin things, even though the night before they left I held them close--they are so light now, so fragile-feeling; it really scares me--and said I would really, really miss them, and they said the time will pass quickly, they will be back soon. So they know, and even though I don't say it, and I don't write it, at least not yet, I do: I miss you.




Friday, September 15, 2017

Used to It

In less pain from missing someone--really, it's easier to write this to the whole world than tell them, because I don't want to ruin their time away.

In other news, I have decided to really limit my news intake to a very short time in the day. I'm not getting any writing, dance practice, etc., done. It's like I'm addicted to a soap opera that runs 24 hours a day. Yes, I want to be socially aware. I want to keep up with the news. I want to remain socially conscious. But I don't want to just throw my life under a steamroller of stress over things that are going to unfold, or not, in Washington.

So perhaps I'll have some other things to talk about in the coming days other than missing my friend and freaking out over the news.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Too-Great Missing

In such sadness and distress over missing someone, feel like I can barely get through the day... how stupid, right? This person cannot possibly miss me like this, can they? 

And what a surprise, this depth of sadness...and why? It does not help that a few days before we parted, there opened up a huge gulf of fear and sadness, especially on my part: as if a mask slipped off and I saw my friend as if in a distorted mirror. We spoke and I feel they understand, but I could have stood up for myself more. and been more clear. And took what I think was a sincere apology to heart.

Ah, the complications of the human heart: do we ever unravel the complex feelings we have for others? No, I think it's like a skein of handmade, painted yarn: one color here, another here, light and shadow, maybe a thorn that wasn't carded out, a ravelled edge. I think so.
 


Friday, September 08, 2017

Something Pretty

Having some sadness over someone who has left town for a little while, and missing them. It is not a big change as compared to what others are enduring. But let's all remember that the people in our lives are the most precious things we have.

This is "You Can Close Your Eyes" by James Taylor.






Friday, August 25, 2017

Shoulder

Some updates on the new injury:

I had a physical therapy session last week (after literally weeks of chasing down my insurance). This was my assessment plus some work on the shoulder. The physical therapist showed me what was probably wrong, did some manipulations, including a curious one which involved placing her forearm in the interstice between my shoulder and the chest wall and gently but forcefully pushed down. I heard and felt my shoulder "crack" (like knuckles cracking) at least three times, and the pain subsided!  She said to continue to do my exercises which a doctor had showed me with the past injury at the end of May or so, use ice and heat, use my brace, and generally be careful. I was able to dance that night with arm motions.

I felt well enough to go to the total eclipse, even though I did have shoulder issues throughout, but minor ones compared to pre-physical therapy.

I have caught flak from at least one related person because I was unable to attend my dad's funeral on the 11th, just after the second fall and shoulder injury.

You know, to any family member who comes to read this: I felt better and I went to the eclipse. And that's the bottom line. If I had physical therapy the week I got hurt, and had the improvement I experienced last week, I would have gone to Dad's funeral.

Do I regret and feel badly about having to miss Dad's funeral? Yes, and most especially because people put so much work into it.. But nobody knew what was wrong with my shoulder after the second fall. I had no idea that physical therapy could decrease my pain like that.

So there it is.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Infamous Walkway

Here is the infamous walkway where I fell. It's obviously for wheelchair access, but everyone uses it as a walkway. I fell the first time just at the first opening; the second time near the end of the walkway, where the red truck is parked today. You might not be able to see it, but the concrete parking things in the spaces are offset. I fortunately did not hit them. I think these curbs need to be painted a bright color to be more visible.

My MRI has been put off until I have a week or two of physical therapy, because my doctor said it would "justify" the MRI. My pain is less (a little) and my mobility is (slightly) better. Still, a tear has not been ruled out. 

In the meantime, I looked up exercises (for seniors) to improve balance and will be doing these daily.

And not taking this walkway out to the parking lot again!


Sunday, August 13, 2017

All Fall Down

I was not able to sleep well last night due to shoulder pain, even in the brace (I have a very soft shoulder brace, essential at night now). I slept in a little. Absolutely had to get up today. I have a household and have to be present. Right now am using Relafen re: my doctor liking this for pain relief. It is one of my regular lupus meds, an anti-inflammatory I am to take as needed, usually. I thought it did not do any good until I began using it for the shoulder. I'm sitting at the kitchen table, where I usually write.

I have to confess to my readers that this is not the first time I have fallen like this (or seriously tripped) over the last two years, aside from the hiking accident where I fractured my spine (fell into a creek from a high bank. I walked around with the injury for a very long time until I started having horrific sciatica, pain in my right hip, etc. An MRI showed the spinal fracture, down near the bottom of my spine, and a slightly bulging disc). This took extended physical therapy to help. I should have gone to the doctor right away, and I didn't. I have a long, long history of neglecting myself.

Over the last couple of years, I have fallen only once in dance class (I was dancing in socks, on carpet). Not too bad, didn't hurt the hip, but was embarrassing. As an "older" dancer, I feel the need somehow to prove myself, which is stupid. I nearly lost my footing twice in another class. Curiously, in the most demanding style of all, Haitian dance, with very quick turns, etc., I have never once lost my footing. Most of the time, I am fine, with some attention to warming up my hip joints, lower back, etc.

But in the last few months, I have begun to have some spills...not just the serious ones at the Tannery in May and last week.  BTW, I realize my readers don't likely know what the Tannery is: it's an old leather tanning factory which has been turned into a successful arts center and is quite the jewel here in Santa Cruz. Many of my dance classes are held here. It's a cool place.

I tripped on the stairs weekend before last. My foot (always the right one) caught on the rough edge of the top stairs (whatever you call the metal thing that is supposed to be there, was not there), and fell, mostly onto my front.

I fell on the sloping driveway of the house, trying to get my purse out of the passenger side and losing my footing on gravel. Fell on my side, twinging the shoulder (this was pre-new-Tannery injury).

I have not tripped on toys in the house, though, but I sure have broken a few crayons and some of the cheaper plastic things underfoot. I am careful with the small person I watch a couple of days a week. She is mobile now and I have a good stroller also, so there is some natural adaptation there.

I realize now that these falls and near-spills are increasing. Is it because I am rushed, harried often, and just not being careful in this year when there has been a new addition to the family at large, and I am responsible for more childcare, thus increasing stress and distraction? That is some of it.

I also fear that some of this is due to the fact that I am getting older.

It's hard to write those words. One thinks that every healthy thing: dance, good food, exercise, etc., is going to push back the tide, but the tide comes in, still. 

I don't want to be the person who has to lose independence because all she does is fall. I don't want to go back to using walking support as I did years ago. I want those days behind me, not ahead of me.

But the truth is, I have seriously injured my shoulder in a repeated way, and I am going to end up with a more serious injury, there or somewhere else, if I keep falling. My Zen teacher, Katherine Thanas, died a few years ago as a result of a similar fall I took this last time. I took care of her along with other members of the Zen community. The wound high on her forehead looked like a large purple star. She never came out of her coma and died in her home, in hospice care (but surrounded by a community who loved her). She always treated me with some bemused humor, as if I were an errant schoolgirl: part of the way she encouraged me. I'll never forget the cute teddy bear on her bed, with a sandalwood mala around its neck.

I have decided to begin yoga again (as suggested by my doctor) pretty much as soon as my doctor says. There is a good adaptive yoga class locally which I have been to before. I can try that. I can try to begin gentle balancing exercises at home (holding on to tables and chairs!). I can get better walking shoes. I can find a more sensible way to leave the Tannery (my plan is to go out through the courtyard past the cafe and offices, and avoid the curbing altogether). I have really good boots for winter, which is the larger concern if we have a bad winter as before.

So I suppose I will be narrating, in this blog, this new process of finding balance again. Will my efforts be fruitful? I can't see how they wouldn't be, on some level.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Clarify

So, after a long and painful interval after the publisher's rejection of Asha's book (albeit what I know was a difficult one for them), I am going back to her story. Two very important questions have come into my mind about the murder--none of which will change the case, of course, except for a set of details which have raised a terrible and important question: did someone other than Michael McClish know about her murder before she was found and failed to report it, for whatever reason? 

That question has arisen from three years of information-gathering about the case. Does it matter? Yes, absolutely, in my opinion. Could I be wrong? Yes, which is why I have only presented this as a theory, based on some ideas coming out of my research. 

Believe me, I didn't stumble on that one and get excited because I had found some "juicy" thing to write about. It made me sick, that anyone could be so heartless in that way. It is something I completely hope I am wrong about, that I am conjuring phantoms.

And as always, I have been struggling with the moral questions of writing about Asha. Even though I knew her, a little, and McClish a bit better, even though I live locally, even though my blog at the time was one of the only sources of news about the crime: does that somehow make it okay for me to write an entire book about her? Have I approached anyone who knew her in a wrong way? Have I done anything to cause further hurt, or pain?

I am hoping that the latter question means that I am NOT trying to exploit her death, and that I am constantly checking myself as I look deeper into the reasons I am writing this story. 

The truth is that when she was taken from our community, the world changed permanently and irrevocably here. No one from that time has forgotten her, or her child. Somehow she compels people to remember her: why is that? And why in the name of God was such a good and precious person taken away? 

And did someone else, someone other that Michael McClish, know what had happened to Asha after she disappeared and before she was found? Believe me, I hope that it's not true: but as I have learned over and over, one seriously never knows.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back

I've no desire to return to the many years when I blogged once a year or so to tell everyone I had survived teaching another couple of semesters at San Jose State. Given my large readership--for which I am eternally grateful--I really should blog much more.

So, what's been going on with me? Here's the digest:

1) I am currently conflicted about my right to tell Asha's story in my book. I know I do not want to exploit her death and that of her child in any way, especially for the advancement of my own writing or "fame." I feel afraid at this point to approach family who loved her so and are scarred permanently by her death, even though my intention is to create the most powerful memorial to Asha that I can. I feel her story has a larger significance and resonance with many, many women, including myself. I could so easily have shared her fate, albeit by another man, that I actually have survivor's guilt over it.

But still, do I have the right, the moral right, to tell her story, going above the wishes of one person whose life entwined with hers? How can I get over my fear of approaching family and friends without hurting them further, and explain the intent of my book so that I am not viewed as some horrible ghoul? What exactly are the rights of any writer to tell any story?

So that's one thing keeping me up at night even as I try to forge ahead,

2) I had an excellent publisher approach me out of the blue regarding Asha's story.  They reluctantly decided not to take it, telling me that the story seemed "too regional" to publish successfully (I totally disagree, but whatever). Still, their excitement over it and the encouragement has meant everything to me, and their support and professionalism was amazing. I am considering looking for an agent even as I struggle with whether I should write this story at all.

3) I have a serious shoulder injury which will impact my ability to possibly perform with at least one of my troupes for some time. I am still dancing with modification and will perform with Dancers of the Crescent Moon this weekend. The choreographies are not usually that hard on the shoulder. I'm in a shoulder brace, especially at night. I will be in physical therapy soon, I hope. Beyond that is an unknown.

So there are some challenges in my life right now. But there is also modified dance, gardening to the best of my ability, enjoying the peace of the forest where I live, reading, writing in my journal--much to be grateful for!

Gratitude, I think, is everything.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Leaves Slide Down

The above is titled as such because I've always thought that leaves really seem to slide down the air, not fall.

This has been a tough year. My father died, as well as three of my dearest friends. I had a couple of professional losses which were real disappointments. I seriously injured my right rotator cuff and am looking at physical therapy first, an MRI if that doesn't help the problem, and then beyond that, other interventions

 I have a performance at the end of the month with Dancers of the Crescent Moon. My other troupe...not sure I will be back up to speed for some time. It's frustrating...have heard that surgery means you can be regaining strength and ability in the shoulder for at least a year. To have something impact me like this with the dancing I love: wow. Never saw that one coming.

This has definitely been a time of falling for me, literally and figuratively!


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Witness

I am witnessing a friend engaging in what I am sure is a manic phase, given the behavior, and the thought processes which are tipping dangerously into grandiosity. I can't diagnose anyone with bipolar disorder--I am bipolar type 2 under very good control with Lamictal--and I don't know if there are other disorders of the brain which involve manic phases. But this is the only description I can muster of what I am seeing.  I fear the other side of this, when the crash comes...because I know EXACTLY what that is like. Lamictal has smoothed out my mood disorder a great deal. I am still highly creative (I mean, I'm not boasting, but the images and language of writing still flow...I don't have the wild sense that my brain is on fire, which was the height of the manic phase for me. But I have a creativity that is like embers and a very steady flame, and am glad for it.

I am not always a good friend to this person, and should be. I tend to simper and say, "Oh, that's great!" to behavior that worries me. I timidly said something small this time and there was no response. I'm afraid to say more because I know well that irritability which goes along with the manic phase. I'm scared there is going to be more. It is hard to know what to do.

Speaking for myself, I think that the hardest part of being engaged in manic behavior is that I either had no idea what I was doing, or found myself unable to put the brakes on. Even now, I appreciate someone pointing out when I am having breakthrough symptoms, which generally are small and controllable.

So what to do? Break out the popcorn and wait for this person to crash, and keep being there for them? Simper around and say everything will be all right when often, everything is not all right?

The truth is that I can't change anyone. None of us can. I can't put the brakes on for this person. My world had to crash down around me in order for me to start looking at how I was wrecking my life.

There is a saying or two in Al-Anon about not standing in someone's way as they face consequences in their lives: one is "Get Off His Back, Get Out Of His Way, Get On With Your Life."

I think that is good advice for me right now, much as it hurts.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fathers

I went to Stillwater, Oklahoma this weekend, to my father's memorial service. At some point, I will bring some of his ashes back to Mississippi and place them with his mother and father, and his brother who lived only one day.

My dad is woven forever into my heart. I am so lucky to have had him for 57 years of my life. Many people lose their parents much earlier.

I will never forget his voice and his laugh, his amazing stories.

Last night I found his final letter to me, a sweet note telling me how much he loved me. The handwriting was so shaky--how long did it take him to write?

Yesterday, I cut back blackberry vines on a hot, bright day--so clear and bright, and suddenly felt I was with him in Mississippi, chopping back vines to clear a garden space. The scene set itself so clearly in my mind that I felt transported there.

I think we never get over losing our parents. My relationship with my father was complicated, with a tangle of history made of shadow and light threads. I am even grateful for the complexity.

Hard to believe he is gone.

So it goes.

Here's a photo of him in Hawaii, my very favorite one.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

More Than Ever

I have not really felt like blogging. The world feels like it is caving in on me. My father's death, a slew of personal things involving one of my kids, dreading my father's funeral in Oklahoma, the turmoil in our country, etc. Now I also have a serious injury.

Two weeks ago, after a wonderful African dance class that felt so healing, I caught my foot on a curb in the parking lot and took a hard and very painful fall onto asphalt. I have badly strained, perhaps torn slightly, my right rotator cuff. I cannot raise my arm in certain positions without pain. Performing is out of the question right now. I wonder if I will really be able to dance again, though I am certain I will. At 58, it takes more time for injuries to heal. I'm doing all the exercises and treatments the doctor has said to do. I will likely get physical therapy.

I have survived serious injuries to dance again: removal of a tumor on the same shoulder which now has the rotator cuff injury. I injured my knee early in dance with a teacher who understood nothing about body mechanics. I badly injured my right hamstring a few years ago by slipping on a friend's too-slippery floor. I fractured my lower spine in 2013, and daily do exercises to help this. I have no doubt that, in time, my shoulder will be okay. Physical therapy and not pushing beyond my capabilities right now are wonderful things, especially.

In the meantime, I am attending dance classes, keeping my arms down at hip level, and am focusing on body mechanics, with really interesting results--really learning how the muscles work in certain aspects of dance and choreographies, focusing on steps and cleaning up my footwork, really listening to music...amazing what can be done when you don't really have to focus on what your arms are doing.

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!  That part has been so interesting and something I might not have focused on had I not acquired this injury.

It's an interesting time...the weather is beautiful, but the sensibility of each day seems foggy and clouded. I know things will change--they always do--and I wait for the wheel of fortune to turn in my favor again.













Sunday, May 21, 2017

No End

I have a delusion which I hear is common after the death of a loved one. I feel as if my father is still alive and all I have to do is pick up my phone and call him, and he will answer.

My father had his shadows, most definitely, like all of us...and yet his goodness, his devotion to family, and most especially the stable, happy life he gave his children when we were small, means everything to me.

I remember one summer he built a little A-frame house in our huge backyard, for a playhouse for us. I remember walking with my sister and a friend over to the next-door neighbor's house and back--it seemed such a safe world then, though my mother always made me walk with a buddy. I saw my dad on the roof of the A-frame, his toolbelt around his waist, and loved him so much for building a playhouse. My first memory is of him unwrapping a toy pink-and-blue terrycloth elephant for me. I was chin-high with the coffee table.

I remember the terrible day my father came home to tell my mother and grandmother (who lived with us) that he had been let go from his job. I was so small that I was in my mother's arms, and when my dad started crying, I did, too. He was probably only in his early thirties, already with three children. I remember his khaki uniform with his name stitched in red above the shirt pocket, because I could see it when he held me, and I remember him wearing that uniform the day he came home. What happened? Was there a layoff, or did he do something wrong? I won't ever know--one of the many things I won't be able to ask him.

 I can imagine why he was so upset and afraid. He had a house, a mortgage, small children to care for. And what my dad did was establish the same type of business he had been fired from. And he grew that business into a strong and steady, and highly lucrative one. He never had to be fired again.

So many stories about a man who taught me what integrity and hard work means. I never expected the world to hand me everything on a platter, that I would have to work hard to get things in life and that was okay...and I would appreciate things more if I worked hard for them.

I'll leave you with a picture of my cool dad, being cool.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Dad, David Gordon McMillan, July 25, 1928--May 16, 2017

My father died at 3:30 a.m. yesterday. He died in his sleep of old age, bless him. I am glad he is past his pain and in a better place.

In many ways, I held on and tried to survive all my health challenges because I did not want to die and have him grieve another child. He lost his daughter, my sister Maryanne, in 2008. I could not bear to have that happen to him again.

I will probably be writing more on this loss in the days to come.

I think nothing unanchors a person more than the death of parents. Both my parents are gone now, and my elder sister. This year I have had three close friends die also.

What it says to me is the old story of how precious this life is...a cliche, I suppose, but we are all so lucky to have this time on earth.

Here is a photo of him, probably on one of the road trips we all loved to take.



Saturday, May 06, 2017

Wild Rose

I love these flowers. This is growing on a spectacular wild rosebush in the woods.


Monday, May 01, 2017

Waterfall

I am trying to re-commit to posting here every day. I am in an exhausting work situation right now, but do not want to return to the days of posting once a year or so because of that. People are kind enough to read this blog, and I want to honor their readership by posting more to read, or photos and such to look at.

So here is a photo of a local waterfall which I took this weekend. I always wonder what it will look like in a hundred years.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Dance in October, part two

My last post involved a story on the news show "60 Minutes," many years ago. It covered a story about women who went to some elite place--a country club, perhaps--to ballroom dance with young men hired as dance partners. I don't know how this arrangement came about--I know there are men trained to be ballroom dance partners for women on certain cruise ships--so perhaps that was what it involved. In the "60 Minutes" special, the young men were apparently taking advantage of the women's loneliness, bilking the women for large sums of money. I spoke of a scene where a young man leads an older woman out on the dance floor. When she started to dance, she gave a kick out that was, to me at the time, inadvertently funny. I am pretty sure the director of the show meant it to be so: here is this silly rich old woman in the arms of a young guy she thinks might like her more than a dance partner. And look at her trying to kick out and then dance.

So there are deeper questions in regards to this show, with which I unfortunately feel a resonance as an older dancer who lacks confidence and self-esteem at times (something I believe is shared by ALL dancers in a discipline where YOU are the "art"). Now I consider first one thing: the woman was, in reality, quite a graceful dancer. She could have been dancing with Godzilla and looked good. So why was she touted as an object of derision and not the gigolo leading her onto the dance floor?

I think a lot of it has to do with the article holding up these women as old fools blinded by vanity and trying to cling to youth in any way they could. Certainly the young men didn't escape scrutiny: the point of the article was that these young men were part of a group that deliberately took money in this way. But the women were made to look ignorant of the fact that they were apparently old and washed-up.

It brings up, to me, the matter of aging in society, in general, and in the dance world, including the one I inhabit, bellydance. There are troupes around which I KNOW would never have an older dancer, or one that didn't fit a certain body style. Certainly whatever the director wants is what they want, but they miss a whole segment of wonderful performers in the process.

Case in point: sick of years and years of getting my hair dyed, I finally went through the long process of letting it go gray, and noticed a very curious change: I was not invited to perform with at least one set of dancers anymore, even though I had done so in the past (it was a small group and I did end up leaving). And then...wow...all these dancers in the community stopped dyeing their hair! Maybe feeling left out won't soon be a problem anymore.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Dance in October

(I published a version of this earlier tonight, but now have edited it, as I felt it was unfair to some of the people involved).

In October, 2016, I participated in a choreography for Halloween that I instinctively knew, before joining up, that I did not want to be in, but felt I could not back out of. It was to be something in which no one could smile, which is damn near impossible for me onstage. I can do this during slow songs--keep a soft, serene look on my face--but I was supposed to look fierce, could not muster it, and it shows. I felt also very uncomfortable in a costume that I designed to try and look nice on me, but which really did not look good on my body. I think it was one of the worst performances I ever gave. I clearly felt very uncomfortable in my skin, and I looked sad, not mysterious.

I have an image that routinely pops into my head during dance classes, and once in a while, during performances.It is a scene from "60 Minutes" many years ago (I have searched for the episode but cannot find the name). It involved older, wealthy women participating in ballroom dance events with young men as dance partners; there was some controversy about the young men taking financial advantage of the rich women, who paid them for dance and other "services". The image that pops into my mind is one of the women strolling out on the dance floor with her dance partner. She was dressed in a flowing white gown and had an arrogant expression. The music they were using for the dance sounded like Musak, and, just as the woman took her partner/gigolo's arm, she gave a kick that at the time, I laughed at. I am sure she was in reality quite a good dancer...not everyone can kick like that in dance--but she looked ridiculous to me.

And that very image recurs many, many times for me when I dance; I think I am as embarrassing and bogus of a dancer as the woman in that news segment. The Musak runs through my head, the image of the white-gowned woman kicking out as her male escort looks on with an expression that says he knows she's a fool and out of place on the dance floor. And then I have to push away the inner voice that says I am like this woman who cannot dance and is making a fool of herself. I have similar negative "tapes" for any creative endeavor that I do...except for fiber arts, incredibly.

Sadly, watching myself lumber around the dance floor in a choreography I clearly did not like, that old image came up for me. I wish I could banish it.

Not participating in anything I instinctively know will make me feel bad about myself is the first step, I think.


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

On Walking and Writing

As someone with children in my life for whom I provide care (I am an adoptive grandparent and also babysit my other granddaughter), it has been hard to pick back up some of my writing routines. I am blessed to live in a beautiful rural area, with a nearby creek, redwood forests, birds, animals (including bobcats and mountain lions, seen quite rarely), deer, and wild turkeys. It is a wonderful thing to take a walk down my road.

Walking has always been an essential part of my writing life. It's as if there has been a great fall-apart in the last few years, beginning with my granddaughter's arrival in my life, of the writing routines which really worked for me. This included really slacking off on my walking; even five minutes a day helped me to collect my thoughts and return to the page.

So, this month, I am going to re-commit to walking before writing (in the day: I don't walk in the middle of the forest at night!). It really does help to clear my mind of cobwebs, even though nothing seems to quash my lack of confidence, which died in November 2013 after a horrible incident and subsequent years of grieving. What a massive rupture that tore into my life! The confidence returns, little by little, but it is different now: I will not be the same person again. Still, the passage of time remakes everyone in ways large and small.

So, I will try to make some progress by walking, even if it's five minutes a day, and see if it improves my ability to sit down at the eternal page and work.






Monday, April 03, 2017

Attrition, Part Two

I'm discovering that I am ultra-sensitive to the topic of people leaving, moving away, etc., right now. I had three people very close to me die in the last few months; no matter what my faith tells me, it is so painful. Two of my friends died of breast and pancreatic cancer; another friend died of old age.It will take me a long time to get over these losses. I am glad my friends all lived such full lives.

 It is true that, given what is happening in this country, nearly everyone I know is edgy and wants to go somewhere else, to have options. Probably that is what plays into my separation anxiety: a sense of rootlessness and uncertainty.

At any rate, I feel gratitude tonight for this blog and the ability to send my words out into the world and for the readers who keep coming back here to my little corner of the Internet.

I also feel gratitude for something a little bit off-track. Margaret Atwood's book, The Handmaid's Tale, has been adapted for a television mini-series, and it looks to be excellent. I was reading an article tonight in which Margaret Atwood described some of her journals at the time: she, too, struggles with wondering if her work is good, if she's a decent writer, how the critics will receive her work, etc. Good to know we writers all share those threads: and how, despite that, we find the mysterious, exquisite thread of words which leads us through the labyrinth. I'm glad she found the thread to write such a prescient book.





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Attrition

Before I start dithering on, I want to apologize to my faithful readers for being out of the frame for the month of March. I've really had no reason except that I had to get a nonfiction book proposal and the manuscript of Asha's book (as much as I have, that is) together and sent off. No idea what will come of it, but it was good to get it done...and interesting to note how much work it took.

I've been reflecting tonight on the big changes I've been dealing with regarding people in my life, specifically losing people to death, moving away, retiring, etc. I'm a very bad Zen practitioner in that I do not do well with change...even though change is the essence of life, I often feel that I want to stop time, to have a moment to catch my breath.

Perhaps my entire life as a writer has been simply trying to catch and preserve a moment, an image, or what-have-you.

At any rate, the time is very late and I have to be up tomorrow to go to the DMV. I have a moment to share from the times I've been to the DMV: one worker had about a billion Beanie Babies on her desk; her computer terminal looked like a decorator crab!

I promise I will try to get back to my daily posts. I appreciate all my readers who come to my little corner of the Internet.



Friday, March 03, 2017

Returning to Asha's Story

I may or may not have something to share regarding Asha's book, hopefully soon. No guarantees, but it is a glimmer of hope about the viability of this book.

I have had to do a lot of thinking and writing about the book in the last couple of months: pretty much the entire journey I want to take with this book, to submit for professional consideration. It has been very, very emotional for me. I am haunted by the last time I saw Asha, a week or so before she and Anina were killed. Who on earth would have thought their lives were about to end? She was full to the brim of her spirit with life.

I have also had to gather up a collection of photos to go with the writing about the book, to show Asha and (in a completely separate file), McClish, and some photos from the media, from the time she disappeared.

It's impossible for me to gather pictures of Asha without sobbing tonight. I have many and chose the ones that really show how radiant she was. There is one of Asha and Richard clowning around, but Asha's gaze into the camera is extraordinary. The latter is a copy of a photo the judge in Asha's case kept on the first page of the case file. He must have seen it every day of the murder trial.

This is probably silly, but to keep myself grounded tonight, I have been listening to a song I wish little Anina could have heard. Perhaps in a world of light, in her mother's arms, she does. This isn't the most professional choir, lol: but the children's voices are so sweet and unjaded.



Thursday, February 02, 2017

Life Emerges

I've been going through a curious time, to say the least, since I left off writing daily in this blog. It's a habit that has been good for my writing, if only as an exercise. I find myself scrawling handwritten work, unable to focus.

I wake every day and obsessively check the news. I feel on edge every day. Tonight I thought of children: the ones related to me, the ones in Thistle's school, in the wider world. What is to become of them, of the world we live in? Everything has changed in less than two weeks.

As a writer, I feel it incumbent to write here every day, to witness the world. When I wake, I feel that there is only one day, the day I have awakened to, and I feel centered in that day. However terrible life feels, I am still here.

The supporters of 45, as he's been nicknamed, have probably not yet felt the full impact of what this man and his frightening administration will do. I pray that he will be removed office. Pence is a misguided pseudo-Christian, but I seriously believe he would toe the line fairly assiduously should 45 leave office in disgrace. Pence will be tarnished with the same brush no matter what he does. I would assume he will not want the same fate as 45--if indeed he doesn't end up sharing it. It will be incumbent on him to be a good boy.

In the meantime, the fool wields his pen. And we, the voices of sanity, begin to fill the streets. I have no doubt of this: many voices, many hands, many hearts, can change the rising tide of evil.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Luxury

I look at my last post about a supposedly "lousy" dance performance and have to say that I now agree with something a colleague, long in the world of the arts, told me: don't look at a video or pictures of a performance immediately after.  He is right.  I look now at the photos and even saw a video: I was fine, and looked fine, including my hair.  I don't know why I dip into this self-hatred: well, I DO know why, but those challenges are not something I want to discuss.

I want to talk about the upcoming election, and align it with a worship service I went to yesterday.  When I can, I try to attend a nondenominational congregation with an absolutely wonderful minister, a woman whose sermons invariably soothe my spirit.  I still love the Zen center I have attended for years, but this other group nourishes my soul also.

Our minister's sermon yesterday included that, no matter what happens in the election tomorrow, our work for social justice and for the good of each other and the planet, is never done.  The Republican nominee has given permission for many to express what is already there: hatred of other races and religions, violence, cruelty, ignorance: but honestly, there are people on the "other side" who express other views, and the same, just as much.  She said to get off the idea that we are superior to others, that they are "bad people" and we are not.  We are still one planet, one nation.  If we hate others, no work can really be done to heal division.

And there is much, much work to be done, always.

I have to say

Monday, October 31, 2016

Really, really lousy performance.

A day ago, I believe I had the worst dance performance in a group dance of my entire career...and am doubly embarrassed because a friend came from far away to see me. Knowing I danced badly, seeing my pictures (which I refuse to put on Facebook),  really saddens me. I see the weight I have gained, the crappy hairstyle I wore to try and fit into the group, and above all, a choreography that was hard for me partially because I did not practice. It is not the teacher's fault. I am the one who gained weight, who hasn't trimmed my hair in almost nine months, and who has just been living on the perimeter of my life.

So, some small changes to begin, a little at a time.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Clean Out

I have the luxury of a small place to write in my house, and have let that space go, moving away from writing to storage, and a place to put on makeup for dance performances.

There are times I get overwhelmed by de-cluttering, even if it's just a small amount of stuff. In this case, it was two boxes of old giftwrap, staples, tape dispensers, etc.  Out they went, in short order, and my stage makeup off the desk. I have some dusting and cleanup to do, and then I have my writing room back. Not everyone has the privilege of such a thing, and so I feel I ought to show my gratitude by using the space.

My real altar for Asha is in this room; I face it as I write.  I feel I have pulled away a little from the book partially because it is not exactly the kind of book one can write at the dining table, which is what I have been doing these days.  Thistle, for one thing, is very curious about what I am writing, and can read quite well now. Not quite reading material for her, for certain.

So, here we go again: a place to write, and hopefully to make more entries here as well.




Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Am Not By Nature

I am not by nature a person who likes to deal with confrontation.  I guess that is true of everyone. In a way, continuing to keep this blog going in the wake of negative and destructive comments is difficult.  Some people almost like negative comments on their work online, whatever that is. I don't.

It takes a lot of something--I want to say courage, but that sounds egotistical--to keep writing in the face of someone trying to settle personal issues publicly. God knows, in the middle of the worst grief I have ever known--or, more accurately, one of them--I made public comments on both Facebook and this blog which, when I settled down, took away. This blog is not for settling scores; it is for talking about my writing, my ordinary days, my dreams.  I have noticed that my writing outside of this blog is slowing down.  It is because I have not come here to share my thoughts.

There is a larger world outside of any conflict one might be going through in the rarefied world of a family.  I am old enough to know that these conflicts have a way of sorting themselves out and arguments end.  Sometimes it takes about 90 percent time and 10 percent willingness to sort things out.  I have no doubt things in my family will be set right again.

So, on to what I have been doing in the last few days or so.  Mostly, I've been sorting papers and setting up a better writing space. I feel like that behavior is a bit like a rabbit making its nest. I know I am gettting ready to plunge into the hard work again of Asha's book.  It really is her book, I think: I'm just the scribe who toils away and follows the path she unfolds. I also battened down the hatches for a rainstorm which is happening right now.

I dreamed about her last night in the place where I meet souls: a place in my dreams which is an ocean shore on the East Coast, though exactly where, I do not know. The sea is sometimes calm, sometimes less so. There is a stretch of sand and then an old-fashioned wooden sidewalk which looks out over the sea and sand.  There are arched gaslights on dark steel poles sparsely dispersed on each side of the bridge.

When I first entered this dream-landscape, I saw a boat out in the ocean, riding the crest of a slightly larger wave than I have seen in this place.  The boat was red and full of passengers, rowing with long oars.  Suddenly, a whale came to the surface and dived back down, its tail moving in that hypnotic arch, slowly.  I could see its outline in the water.  I remembered seeing them that way at Point Reyes, long ago, outlined in sheer blue water, like archangels made out of shadow and salt.

Then I saw Asha standing casually at the sidewalk's railing, looking out towards the whale.  She wore the white dress I have seen her wearing a few times in the dream-world, almost like a caftan, but with a somewhat tailored shape to it.  Sometimes there is a gossamer cape or veil trailing in the back of the dress, but not this time. The dress always seems to have some sort of radiance to it.  Her hair was dark brown-red and very shiny.  All she did was turn and look at me, but her expression was so kind and warm, her smile welcoming.  She simply acknowledged me and nodded, and did not turn her gaze away.  I felt as if she might be saying, "You are doing a good job.  You cannot stop.  You cannot leave me and Anina behind."

I must admit that every week, I feel like giving this book up, and every week, I find the strength again. Her appearance in my dream this week simply seems to say, "Keep going!"



Monday, September 19, 2016

Why Go Back?

Going back now to the time when our community really fell apart, when it was discovered that Asha had been killed and no one knew who the murderer was. 

Sometime just before she was found, I seem to remember that a call came into the household--it must have been all households in the Valley, perhaps--that credit and other cards had been found somewhere.  I was surprised at this call, as I had never heard of our law enforcement department doing such a thing.  It turns out that Asha's backpack was found sometime during her search. I seem to recall--wow, I am saying that a lot, aren't I?--a photo of a backpack similar to the one I once had, with a brightly striped strap. People use these sorts of things as purses.  I am sure this call was in regards to Asha's credit cards.

At the time of her discovery, women began to be afraid that there was a serial killer in our area.  In my records, I see that police gave out a message that they believed there was only one killer. Personally, I did not want to go out after dark, alone. I believed, along with many others, that a killer lurked in the shadows.

And yet I knew her killer all along.  

Many people do not know that McClish's original arrest was for first-degree rape.  And when did that rape occur?

The night before Asha and McClish met in the Felton cemetery, the place of the lone intimate contact they had.  This puts one more piece of the puzzle in place for me: that Asha's contact with this man was not consensual.  Someone said to me, insensitively: does it matter, would it "clear her name" somehow? She did no wrong, she did not have to be cleared...but it might help women to see that all her behavior, leaving her husband, her fear of McClish, etc., were the result of trauma. Women have been made to feel ashamed of such trauma when there is zero reason to feel this shame.








Saturday, September 17, 2016

Back, More Thoughts on Asha's Book

I have been away for some time again due to various reasons--including research on Asha's book--and hope to resume posting regularly, if not daily.

I would like to first say that, for anyone who knew Asha and is now a regular reader of this blog and of the website with her book: I have a great deal of awkwardness in approaching the family simply because I am so concerned about being sensitive to an unimaginable grief.  There are times I don't really even know how to ask.  How do you ask someone to speak to you of the worst thing that could possibly happen to a friend, a child, a relative?

I want to express that the intention of my story is to honor Asha and her child, and to help people understand what families and friends, and even communities, must bear after this sort of violent crime.  In the United States, at least, the media always focuses on the criminal.  McClish, who committed the crime, is now the one news stories focus on, and Asha is simply mentioned as the nice cashier from Poland. I want her to be known as the brave person she was.  I wish to treat her, and her story, with the utmost respect.

To all of Asha's friends and family from America and Poland who have visited this blog, I thank you for reading my words about her. I resonate with her because I was once a young pregnant woman far from home, carrying a child that many people did not want me to have. I had not the love and resources Asha seemed to have, nor a loving family back home. I know she was much stronger than I was then, but I still feel a bond to her because of my own life.

Please know that any information you can give me about her helps me to bring her more fully to the world. I do not want the name "McClish" to be the one most remembered in the course of time.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Back Again

I am back after a short absence again. Hopefully when my time frees up again in a week or two, I will be able to write again.

Yesterday was the birthday of a few close friends in my life, and also of my son, Jamie, who was stillborn 30 years ago.

I can hardly believe it has been 30 years.

I love this poem by Dana Gioia, which I think says it all for any parent who has been through this experience.

Planting a Sequoia

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the orchard,
Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing the soil.
Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first son's birth—
An olive or a fig tree-a sign that the earth has one more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new stock into my father's
orchard,
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple boughs,
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an infant's birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can — our labor and our soil,
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by the circuit of
bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn down,
His mother's beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth

Friday, August 26, 2016

Comments

I am sorry to say that I am removing the comments feature on this blog, at least for the time being. If you have a comment, please use my contact form (in the left sidebar, next to the current post). I will consider publishing as a blog post if you wish, as long as it is appropriate. If you are using the mobile version of Blogger, you will have to access the web version in order to use the contact form. A link to the web version is at the end of every post on the mobile version of blogger.

 I have had an inappropriate comment via Google Plus and Blogger's comment managing system seems not to work, so disabling comments seems to be the last resort.  I have also removed the ability to subscribe to comments, though you can still subscribe to my posts. I haven't had to consider any changes whatsoever in my commenting system for many years.

Thank you to all the readers of this blog for your forbearance. Hopefully I can turn on the comments feature sometime in the near future.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

These Are The Days

I have been away yet again due to working on the eternal tangle.  Thistle's hair has survived and all the hair coming out of the tangle is healthy and beautiful.  I am very grateful. She had a fun dance recital today and I maneuvered her hair into a bun to cover the tangle, and put a pretty crocheted bun cover over it.  I love her so much and will make sure to never, ever have this happen again.  I brushed out her hair to put it in a bun and am blown away by how beautiful it is...probably because it has been washed and conditioned within an inch of its life all summer.

How I wish I could just catch this time and hold it, like fireflies collected in a jar: but even they must be let go. It goes so fast, these times.  And so to remind myself of staying in present time, I have included a favorite song to share.




Sunday, August 14, 2016

To Know A Story: Joette Smith

First off, thank you to my readers for your patience during these small breaks. As I have written before, Thistle, my granddaughter, has an enormous tangle on the top of her head--a mat, really--which felted up.  We were told we would have to cut her beautiful strawberry-blonde hair--pure Tudor gold, I like to say.  As a person who has spun wool for years, I told myself that there is no fiber which can't be unraveled, with much effort.  After nearly two months, I have made enough progress that I can put her hair into a bun above the tangle and it looks fine.  I expect everything to be greatly diminished, if not gone, by the time she is back in school.  She has even gone back to her swim lessons.  We are having a fun summer, albeit an abbreviated one.

I went to a writing group last night, comprised of women I have known (at least some of them) for over thirty years. These women had not seen Finding Asha Veil (new working title of the book) and loved it. I had excised a crucial chapter from it--describing my own experiences of losing a friend to a serial killer, of being assaulted by a professor as a young woman and my entire life falling apart.  My other group felt it  didn't belong, that it was disrespectful to Asha to have my story in there also (even though my story exists in service to hers in this book).  The women said, "NO!  Keep your story in there.  It doesn't detract. It bears her up."

Personally, I think Asha woud have wanted every woman's story told, if that were possible. I never knew her as well as I might have liked, but through the voices of friends and a bare handful of family, I feel a sense of her.  I can't put every woman's story in this book, but there are salient ones I feel I need to touch upon: the murder of Juanita Nelson, for one thing.

My friend brought up another murder I had totally forgotten about, though I was horrified beyond measure when it happened. I had researched the murders of women in Santa Cruz County thoroughly, I'd thought.  Why was this murder never mentioned in all the articles and research I did?

In 1983, a woman named Joette Smith vanished while walking home from Henfling's, a bar in Ben Lomond near the Ben Lomond Super. Her body was found in the San Lorenzo River the next morning, underneath the bridge near the market.  She had been beaten, raped, and strangled. Her clothing, along with the clothes of another woman, were found a short distance down the river. The case went cold and was closed a long time ago.  Here are a couple of links to old, weathered pictures of articles from our local paper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Talk about a woman who just disappeared in the media!  At least they told something about her life beyond her disappearance, unlike Asha (something I found horribly unjust). You can click on these articles to expand them; the text comes up very small, but is readable:

The Murder of Joette Smith

The Community's Response To The Murder

Joette's Friend Creates A Reward Fund


Michael McClish came instantly to mind: but he was a kid then, fourteen, close to fifteen. Joette's injuries reminded me of Asha's so strongly that I felt weak and had to sit down when I read the articles. What did McClish look like then? In adulthood, he was a strong, strapping man; you could easily imagine him overpowering a strong woman like Asha.

Still, a teenager that young can rape and kill, especially if the victim--albeit a grown woman--had been drinking, as Joette had been. He had to start somewhere; he boasted about his previous killings and was very specific about how he killed.  He had a very long history of this kind of boasting.  Even if he did not commit this particular murder, I am certain he knew about Joette, as he lived in the same town.

Whatever happened to Joette, she seems to be vanishing into the progress of time, the way a comet slowly retreats from the night sky until its light disappears.  I, too, forgot about her. The horror of how she was murdered--including that clothes from another woman were found with her--so chills me to the bone, so instils in me a feeling of shadows and this killer's derangement, that I intend to ask around about her. I wonder if any of the detectives on her case are still working for the department.

Like an origami box, Asha's story, and all its attendancies, keeps unfolding. What more is going to come my way?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Working Steadily on Asha's Book: What Did She Think That Night?

I am working steadily now on my book about Asha Veil's murder.  I feel much closer to the story now: this is hard to describe. I like to say that I live my stories (and probably present myself as incredibly tedious when I talk about my writing, as everything in them seems real to me).  I have not lost interest in Asha's story, even though I haven't updated any information about it here in some time.

 I have been too involved in what is turning out to be a very angry Presidential election.  I am not immune to being swept up in it. There is so much at stake--always the case with an election--but it all seems so more crucial and urgent this time around.

Yet my time to write is necessarily limited and I have been squandering the two hours I give myself to write every single night in my Lompico home.  I feel lucky for that time, which many writers do not have at all.  Gone are the days when I could do a six-hour stretch in my office!  Maybe one day this will come back, but it is not my path right now. 

Two days ago, I went to the Felton Cemetery where, so long ago, Asha Veil thought she may have conceived a baby with the man who would eventually destroy her, and the child she carried. because of crucial information I have been given about whether this was consensual or not, I believe strongly that she did not have willing sex with McClish: that she was forced.  The reason I believe this is confidential, but the more I think about it and read court records and news reports from that time, the more I believe it.


The cemetery itself is eccentric and a peaceful place.  Apparently one can place any sort of headstone; there used to be someone who had half a surfboard as a tombstone.  Right now, the weeds have turned golden and dry: the time of year is approaching when she disappeared.  I sat in a redwood gazebo and wondered if she sat there, too: it's cool and shady. I have never seen anyone but Michael McClish there, for I used to see him cutting wood at the edge of the cemetery and listen to the thwock of his axe.  There was a tool shed; I wonder if he kept his hatchet there, the one which he used to threaten another woman.  Did he threaten Asha with that hatchet, the night she was left alone with him?

A grave stood directly in front of me: a child who died at only ten years of age. There are so many old graves, worn out by time and weather. There are graves of babies and children, some graves from the time of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.  There are Civil War soldiers, entire families in one plot, so many inscriptions: beloved mother, gone but not forgotten, I will never forget you, love never ends, called home, an angel in heaven.  Michael Gray, a sheriff killed in the line of duty, has a beautiful gravesite there. One of my students is buried there, a young man named Shawn.  I taught him in my early twenties, my first real job out of college. He died a few days after his mother, Patra, who is buried by his side.  What is the story behind that?  I will never know. I have not yet found their graves.

 Did Asha walk among these graves, looking at all the names?  Does her spirit ever visit this place, which turned in a matter of minutes from a place of tranquility and peace to one of fear and confusion?  I will not know the answer to that one, either, but I sensed she does not roam here.

When I entered Felton Cemetery that day, I left a silver dime for Baron Le Cimitiere (I buried mine among a stand of amaryllis belladona, pink lilies that have the curious name of "naked ladies"). He is the keeper of cemeteries and I give him his due when I visit one.  I do not fear him: he holds the key to many secrets.  He likes rum with a hot pepper steeped in it, a waft of tobacco smoke.  I never deny him these things.

Then I whispered to Le Baron, as I have to so many spirits, so many unseen visitors: help me write Asha's story. Help me find the people who knew her. Help them see that my intentions are pure: I do not want to become famous off her story.  I want her to be known.  I want women to see what a predator does to kind and unsuspecting people.  This is my connection; this is what drives me; this will push me to get this book done.











Saturday, July 09, 2016

Tangle

Dear Readers, I have been away for this long because of a tangle--a mat, really--in Thistle's hair.  I spend hours on it a day.The reason it is there is because, basically, another member of this household said, "Wait! Do not work on her hair!  Tomorrow is another day! Do not place it in a braid! Ha ha ha, the mat on top looks just like a MOUSE!  Ha ha ha ha ha...."

By morning, almost all her hair on top of her head had been sucked into the tangle, creating a massive mat.  It has taken nearly three weeks to unravel and there is more to go.  Rather than turn the air blue any further, let's just say that Thistle has reveled in unlimited screen time and I have had more than enough knowledge of detanglers and patiently working apart a hair mat. I did not want to cut her beautiful hair.

So angry about this I could scream, like the Munch painting, but am going back to the knot.

Thank you for your patience.