when you wish upon a star, it takes a while sometimes.

What happens to those fervent wishes sent out into the ethersphere, unspoken perhaps, but backed by powerful feeling? Sometimes they come round, like a delayed reaction, After you don’t need it anymore, what you once wished so hard for…

Year or so ago, I left Washington for a while, moved to Portland to find a job, and wrote out some big chunks of words that had lodged in my head. And once I had books worth, I started sending the manuscripts out into the ether, where nothing much happened. It felt like practice, like training, like a good faith exercise in reconciling poetic nature in a tangible world.

I looked for jobs, too. All year long. Temp jobs, freelance gigs, part-time positions, work for friends – all of these came my way and passed again like snow flurries, where nothing white sticks to the ground. Nothing green stayed in my bank account for long. My plan upon arrival had been to land a produce job at one of Portland’s many and fine grocery stores. Applications and job fairs came and went and again, I heard very little in return. One of those bewildering episodes, where things Should be proceeding smoothly, and for some reason, don’t.

Strengthening. And ultimately frustrating enough to say “Enough with this.” And I picked up some old threads and followed them back to Washington, to put down some roots in this potato patch in Skagit. Round about when I was packing up the uhaul, the tail end of a poetry wish came true, and this poem I wrote a few years back about an afternoon dip in the waters off Teddy Bear Cove, was accepted for publication in an anthology of Portland Women Writers called Voicecatcher. It’s a beautiful book, with poems and short stories arranged elementally, and Starfish Time anchors the water section. You can order it online at www.Lulu.com, which is a fine independent publishing site.

And after some months of good faith barista-ing in Everett for Tully’s coffee, I just accepted a produce position at the lovely Skagit Valley Food Co-op, so that wish came true too. A little delayed, and me gone a little raggedy in the interim, but pleased nonetheless. So come visit me and the vegetables in Mt Vernon, and here’s the published poem:

Starfish Time

Up close in the summer
riding the backs of the sandstone boulders
as the waters rise slow in the cove,
the starfish seem sewn like patches
overlapping the barnacles
leaking salt in the long wait
from tide to tide.

We placed our last things
on a hump of stone
and wandered out thigh deep
in the Sound. At our feet
the water clear, a colony
of orange and purple, fresh submerged
stirring to life.

So many fingers
I wanted to lay my body down
above them, float on my back
in the sun-warm shallows
taking in the shoreline upside down
the sky a blue bowl
rimmed in gold and green.

I wanted the ocean moving beneath me
rocking my limbs in a salty lullaby.
I asked if you were ready
and you wanted to be so you said yes,
but it wasn’t true yet, what you wanted;
you were still straddling the shore.

In an underwater movie with sped-up time
the starfish move in teeming hordes
they cover ground like colonies of ants on land.
Our short immersion into their time zone
was only a sea breath, a cilial possibility
the beginnings of grace.

There’s a man in Costabel
on a coast that calls shipwrecks
who steps out into the early low tide
and plucks stranded starfish from the rocks
where they cling, pitching them
through the waves into the hurling sea.

Have you been him?
Have you too, longed to enter the inter-tidal zones
with your heart pumping
and your limbs working
on some inexplicable urge
to save whatever life moves you?

You can watch it all; see it very clearly,
but without that spark of irrational love
– the one that asks you to shift speeds and feel
from beyond your particular time –
without that urge to submerge yourself
in the world, don’t hope to know it yet.

The world unfolds only as the heart learns
too, and the heart – the heart is a starfish
it covers ground without seeming
to move, sometimes.

A doozy of a day

Whilst the Pineapple Express raged its warm wet flounce on the land for a week, we tucked in close to home. The cat woke me early in the darkness, weaving insistent trails across my throat: letmeoutletmeoutletmeout.

And so I did and so he went and so the morning soaked through the last dry bits of soil and the water rose in the furrows of the fields and around the stones in the drive down to the barn, in all the low places. And it was well toward noon when I knew that if the cat was able, he would have made it back to shelter by now. There was a sort-of dreadly fear inching up through the morning rituals, and I kept opening the door and calling out into the grey, and then my calls took me down the long-puddled road to the barn and out along the perimeter of fields, scanning for specks of orange, down in the ditches where the wind’s trash floated in the reeds and thick water.

The feeling came upon me, although my mind retained its logical sense of the situation, that Tiki was not sleeping out the tail end of the storm under a particularly dense bush or tucked withing the steel circle of a pipe, that if he could have come, he would have – and the logic was what led me to the loss. And once I was at the loss, it moved into me quickly. i found myself sobbing and keening behind the windshield at an interminable light on the Burlington strip, swearing at and protesting the universe. All my old bets with God are off during these moments of test.

Until the framework shifts internally and test becomes surrender and I do, finally, give the pain up to wonder, give the love out for the universe to hold. For it constricts the breath to try to hold, to conserve myriad magnitudes of overwhelm – the revelation of feeling – in such limited form as everyday thought patterns allow.

I greeted the day’s end out at the end of the driveway, where the sun set in a clear span of sky and all the long furrows of the fallow fields reflected its final glow, row after row of long orange puddles. I made a prayer of thanks for such a trusted ally as companion during this handful of years, and I felt run clean by the day’s sobbing – my eyes new and soft, in limbo.

Any true connection makes a new love, and the more belief and softness paid, the stronger it resonates withing each partner, like a purr fed into, like a shimmy in perfect synchopation, like the movement itself will break the old form open. The universe is the only vastness that can absorb such a hum, and turn it inside out, to feed the chi that life thrums on.

The night came, and I met a new friend for a walk along the swollen creek. We squatted on the maple leaves glued to the sloping stones and watched the river pool like a slow wrath bubbling up to the surface. Moonlight muffled in the tail guard of clouds from the storm – the world gone black and white,the sound of liquid falling amplified by sheer vloume.

There are cords and there are bonds. The cords we wrap around each other’s ankles unawares, they lay out like traps only mostly you trip yourself up with the same unworkable story over and over again.

The bonds they work reciprocal, we forge them with each other through mutual effort at reconciliation, forgiveness, trust, belief, and love. The love we build to place among the stars.

We came back from out night walking and my phone was lit up with a mesage from Matthew, who was calling to tell me that Tiki had walked right up as he arrived home, was fine, would see me soon.

Just like that, the heart eases its great welling, lets the momentum check and resumes its course of grounding that current into the Other. You pour the love back in – unless the bond is interrrupted, you pay in over and over again. You choose to feel with and to be moved. A surrender, not a test – or a test of surrender. Such a ride.

A Last of Her Kind Kind of Story

Back in the, wide old open world,
back in treefelling marsh dyking days
when the wilderness was close enough
to touch each and every one of us,
A girl grew up in a new white farmhouse
born perhaps, in one of the rooms,
and grew to be a woman as her father
raised up apple trees, and chickens,
and claimed the wetland in between the bays
in the name of scythe and plow.

The island began to feel closer to shore, though
the winding track through the furrows of February mud
made the crossing seem as from one world to the next.
Samish Island to Edison must have at first
been a matter of slough waters and reed grasses plying
the sides of boat or canoe, the beaches distinct. And then,
as this Girl’s father helped to carve out a shallow,
fertile patch, it might have been a long morning’s ride
by cart and horses into town, two bends in the road,
nestled against the winding new banked slough.
And as she passed through school and the first war
was still the Only, she learned to keep a home
for her father – the ledger, the taxes, and she learned
the birds from her windows, and she taught in turn,
down at the school. And she kept books on any manner
of subjects, and she kept patterns for clothes, and curtains
and there was a drawer full of stereoscopic images
from Japan and from the West.

And she lived her whole life in that place and watched
the apple trees begin to turn again toward the earth
and the herons and eagles raise their fledglings
in the surrounding sky, and the track to town
became a road, and the people who came out to the island
planned to stay, and made civilized sidewalks
down along the beach, with flagpoles, and baby strollers.
And at Christmas her friends sent her letters, with
Haiku jingles about the Last War, in three line stanzas
that bubbled with a sort of frantic good cheer.
And she never married, and so she kept keeping house
for her father, as he grew old and died perhaps,
in one of the rooms. And she read all the time
about Europe and yet she never left the island.

And there is one photo of her from when the Gulf War
was still the Only, and she looks great still, in her 1970’s
suit, and I wonder what it was like to be her –
to span such a length of landtime and wartime and mindtime –
to fashion clothes with fabric from the millinery
In Edison, and to keep the old wood stove in the kitchen,
and a pot of tea ready steaming perhaps; the last of her kind
really, on an island full of old stories.

Needle Form

Heard a recent story about a group of musicians, smoking in the street outside the club before their set. Fellow came up and was giving them his story, asking for change. He was talking mostly to the overtly compassionate one [how does that radar work?], meanwhile Bill brought through some gung fu – cutting in with interrupting questions: “What do you think about blue, it’s a good color isn’t it? How about candy, do you like candy? Do you think sugar is bad for us? That kind of stuff, stalling the guy who had interrupted their pre-show chill, by flipping his energy back at him.
Gung fu practice has many forms. I been out in the studio this afternoon, sticking pins between my lips and getting the feel of fabric between my fingers, internalizing words like drape, and hang. RL Burnside and Pearl Jam on the stereo, a cup of tea, small scissors, the insistent prick of needle into the top layers of skin.

The wind picked up the last of the alder leaves on the pair of trees at the edge of the north field. Hundreds of waving yellow palms, spangled in the sunlight. I go outside in the rustle, move slowly through some qi gung, and shake my palms in joyous reply. All the way down to the ground these legs go, contained in rubber soles. Those trees have roots that might be almost reaching my feet, extending welcome in the soil that supports all of our weight.

two headed boy

“She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires, and retire to sheets safe and clean… but don’t hate her when she gets up to leave.” – Neutral Milk Hotel

My cat is again a creature of the animal kingdom. The birds have woken it in him, and so he seeks me out less and less. Gone are the extended yowls he used to greet my long day’s absence, winding in to the bathroom to trail his tail across my calves. He sits before the window by the door, extending that cat sense out across the driveway, into the trees where the many small birds sing each other songs of happy fall nibbling. The cat dreams of nibbling as well, and has little patience with the big handed affection of human creatures, who broadcast their intentions and want a sort of simplification. He is other, again, and so am I.

All this space, see. Nothing for the self to intrude upon, and nothing to enter the day but birds, circling the trailer, rising and falling through the air in a small symphony that includes us inside the windows. For a time, the potato fields are filled with morphing leaps of wings.

This evening, I did not go into town. I took a bath, sipped sailor jerry’s rum from the munchen glass, took time to be in this skin with its continuous sloughing and creasing; such a thin barrier between water and air. And danced in the dark reflection of three windows to Neko Case and Nina Simone and Neutral Milk Hotel. Sufi spinning has a centrifugal pull on the heart line, the grin comes welling up like springwater. Out beyond the windows where the birds are tucked in under feather for the night, lies a night tide and the fall fields and a quiet I haven’t heard for years. The mist holds this flat land tight between the mountains and bay. We are peeking up from a pocket of the world, that’s all.

Life is good again!

Pesto parmesan bagel and my good friend Charlie sitting next to me on the couch at Tiny’s. He’s off to Hillsboro to join in the Guniess Book attempt at the largest number of people wearing balloon hats in one place at one time. I’m off to the Pendarvis Farm for another day of the Pickathon, a fundraiser for KBOO public radio. The Wood Bros. are playing, and Kelly Joe Phelps. Last night Greg Brown sat down in a red shirt so faded it’d gone pink, and a railroad cap, and his everpresent sunglasses and sang us songs from his latest “record” while the little kids threw piles of hay up into the air and the grownups tapped their toes and nodded along. “I want my country back”, he sang. Yep, so do we all.

Aargh

So what is it about our progress as a civilization which is so inherently frustrating and dis-satisfying? Oh what I wouldn’t give for a short answer to that question.

The two major disses on my list this morning are taxes and spam. In particular, [and I know that it is taboo to mention publicly one’s own financials, especially when the words following are oil and government. This post in fact, should attract any number of spam comments, like a slick patch of tar in the water snags birds] the spam I get for this site, which is mostly attracted to the Hermes Tresmegistos et all posting.
I’ve filtered 50 or 60 garbled postings by now, comments filled with junk words from bogus addresses, or vaguely creepy simple sentences that could apply anywhere. The irony of these responses to a posting concerning universal truth is not lost upon me, and the bitter taste lingers on the tongue.

Speaking of bitter tastes lingering:
So I received a legacy gift a number of years back, of stock in the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company. Oil stock – welcome to the land of paradox. It weighed heavy, this chunk of potential change – I didn’t want it. So I sold it a few years back, and used the money to support myself whilst starting a healing practice. Sounds like a fine transmutation, doesn’t it? Only my partner’s cancer returned shortly thereafter, and my momentum for building a business never picked up the steam it needed, and by the time it was time to file taxes the next year, I was grieving his passing and totally spaced out the stock dollars on my tax return. How’s that for a “whoops”?

Totally spaced it. So the letter from the IRS was a bit of a shock. A pricey bill, for oil, again.
The gift that just keeps giving. I’m a grumblin alright. But I’m paying it. I’m paying for it.

I am my own American. I believe there is room for me here, in this landscape. Reconciling myself to reality has been a long practice, and I’m feeling a little bit finished with the practice. I don’t want to reconcile my internal experience with this muck. I value something in myself which I might call my humanity, if humanity didn’t continue to show all the signs of trauma. So I’ll call it essence of life. I value that, most high.

Queen of May

A Long Ways from the Queen of May

Two years ago in the meadow at the Outback Farm, we gathered the clans for a maypole celebration. The kids took turns on the tree swing and the violin danced our feet in circles, the over-under winding of ribbons. Last year I met the first rains of the season on the dunes of a beach in the Yucatan, during a late dusk storm. Today I spent the morning steaming the last of the DiscoFern wallpaper from the walls of a bathroom in NE Portland, the old glue softening off with putty knife and sponge.

That Maypole was magical, a renaissance of the old energies of land, calling back to the tradition of the folk copulating in the fields to ensure a fertile season. The month of May a randy one, and the call of old tradition is deep and lively in the bones. My people and his people, gathered to dance in the face of death. We were fresh and full of life, and later when the sun passed south we pulled a nest of blankets up into the treehouse cradled in the pear tree and offered our histories to each other, our present selves. When dawn came through the gingham curtains, it found us curled together, snug fit.

After a week in Belize on the edge of revolution, where the palm trees lit the night like smudge sticks lining the roadsides as farmers burned their fields to prepare for the rains; that night in Mexico was magical too. We were restless, back in town after so many hot days with only a village river for distraction, and seeking life. We found the travelers cafe, a pulse beneath the skin of the tourist veneer, and they pointed us down the road toward a tiny open air nightclub with a serious sound system and a disco ball. We danced when the power was on, and when it cut out we talked by candlelight to the beautiful motley mix of locals.

The smell of the rains came first into that crackling eve, and I went out into the street to stand and sniff as the first drops reached ground. We hightailed it back to the cabanas as the winds picked up, and out on the coast three storms were colliding. The sky turned green like an electric bruise and I took my shoes off and danced on the dampening ground.

Mostly there was the wide grin – nothing sweet and playful like the potluck back at the Oasis after the Maypole dance, with wine and family and guitars on the side deck of the communal home – this was the Qi charged sea and sky in combat with the land. There was no fear in it; like rough copulation, this essential act of a season changing from dry to wet, fertility returned with the crackling flare of lightning from roiling clouds, touching ground.

All week in the village hut I had been so angry. It leaked from me like sweat, and all there was to cool me down – the slow-turning fan and the river idling past – could only dim the torporous rage. When the storm came I unleashed it to greet the elements and it flowed through me steadily, a faucet opened into the sea. I let the rage of last year’s sour dream drain and I let the storm in to wash me clean. A plow, furrowing the channels of heart, searing them clean, laying the ground fertile for what life was to begin from this moment on,
and this one, and this one.

And this one, which is many worlds away from all the hoopla of celebrations and storms, where the kernel of joy comes from technique of steamer, putty knife, and sponge. The splashy shiny silver green and brown 70s fern designs leave a stringy film of backing, and beneath that layer lie patches of gummy adhesive. The steamer is slow but potent, and in time the wall comes smooth and clean, back to its drywall bones.

I miss the magic. The radio is tuned in to a “first wave” station and all morning the songs I loved in junior high come back to greet me from a less moving and painful place. The words are still stored in my head somewhere, and if I open my mouth, the singing begins itself and some part of me still 13 years old is finding her first salvation and flirting with her own demise. Not all that much has changed – although from each year to the next is a whole different story.

A Long Way from the Queen of May

Check back in a day or so for a short story of this same name, but in the meantime – if you’ve ever had any interest in indigenous medicine, please peruse the cliff notes I created from a weeklong Apprenticeship with Mayan Healer Mz. Beatrice last April in Belize. The pages are still in the works, and feature lots of good information on women’s health, with only a minimum of ironic personal commentary. It’s been a long year since then, chock full of change. More to come on that front too.

What If they Held an Expo and Nobody Came?

Some good marketing lessons this weekend, from the trade show frontlines of alternative health care. As part of my new identity as C.A. [Chiropractic Assistant], I am venturing into the wacky world of convention centers to explore the labyrinth of booths. Cell phone chips to stop radiation, African safaris, the Nia Technique, death and taxes, new windows, retirement plans, acupuncture and magnet therapy – all these options available for the Baby Boomer this weekend at the convention center.

Last weekend’s Pet Companion Show was a two-tiered world of tails and noses stopping distracted “owners” at every conceivable corner. We put up a little sign saying “Human” on the Free Spinal Screening banner, so that people wouldn’t try putting their labradors on the SAM unit scales. It was fun and festive in the expo center – people are more open when their pets are around, and the chaos was full of fur and barking.

There’s a new doctor at the clinic where I work, and he’s pulled the old-school practice building cards: trade shows and going door-to-door. I’ve got backup duty, moral support, and I’m keeping my ear out for marketing gems among the many opinions that people inveitably develop when networking. It is much easier to be in this world of self-promotion when it isn’t my practice in particular that I’m building. This may be true in the same way that it is much easier to deal with organizing other people’s stuff than your own.

Nobody built much business of any kind this weekend, however, as exactly Nobody showed up on a sunny spring weekend to the Convention Center for a poorly-named and poorly-advertised Baby Boomer expo called B.R.E.W. [Boomer Resources Exhibition and Workshop] A few people did show up for microbeers, but they were sorely disappointed. There were maybe 60 people in the aisles during the talk from a charismatic scientist with Oasis Life Sciences. The Oasis folks, who are into regeneration on the level of DNA and who offer “a gift” of condensed packets of live organic greens and aloe from international farms, sound like they have made pyramid marketing work yet again.

Saturday was full of vendor networking, but by Sunday a third of the booths were empty and there were murmurs of mutiny, with the goodhearted exception of the woman in gold lame, who dressed up to “help everybody” and wandered the aisles with her aging smile, a longtime veteran of the world of self -promotion. A former PT whose career ruined her spine and her hands and was now selling life insurance suggested that we all leave our stalls and gather at the stage and each spend five minute marketing our position or offering. Not a bad plan, but the lethargy of an empty hall was contagious, and it was hard to imagine organizing anybody into a fervor of anything. All these vendors – people who thrive on connection – were starving for attention and playing imaginary russian roulette with each passing hour.

Into this calm pit of despair walked the woman in the blue and white flowered dress. The shoulder pads were military style, and she halted in her beige heels at our corner and stared intently at the SAM machine.
“Takes 2 minutes and its painless” I said by way of greeting, “Would you like to have your spine checked?”
She was intent also in her reply: “Yes.”
I asked her to fill out the top box on our form. She was as vague as possible. I asked her about her chiropractic history – vague again: “In the past.”
The young doctor came over to greet her and offered his hand. She returned his handshake and sent it back for changes: “Too soft,” she said “it feels fishy.”
Oh the control of a lone consumer at an empty trade show – oh the power. She asked me to shake her hand and pronounced my grip firm. The doctor tried to explain himself in terms of gentleness, but she wasn’t having it. She put him through the ringer. A man with a huge belly and an intriguing stone around his neck came up and I let the blue-flowered commander to her hazing of the new doc. So much for my role as moral support…

The big-bellied guy was very calm. His stone came from a trip to Peru about 7 years ago. We began to trade machu picchu stories while the doc stood the matron up on the scales and aligned the strips with her head shoulders and hips. He was solicitous, as he worked, asking respectfully if he could touch the top of her shoulders, her blue-flowered hips.
“Yes” she said, intent again. Then she stepped down and consulted the findings – the unusual distribution of weight across her feet, the tilting of spine and retilting to compensate. She believed the lines, if not the doctor informing her. I was deep in Peru conversation so the loud SMACK of her hand hitting the doc came out of the blue and at first I wondered if she had taken a sudden offense to his prognosis.
Both the the big-bellied guy and I looked up out the corners of our eyes at the moment that the Fly she had apparently killed with her sudden slap at the doctor’s shoulder, rebounded down the blouse of her dress. Such was the velocity of the killing blow, and such was the moment of surreal calm when she asked the doctor to retrieve the fly from its resting place. Nobody looked directly at the extraction, which was handled smoothly and quickly and without further incident. There was laughing and the doctor somewhat goodnaturedly gave her his card in case she should wish for future chiropractic help.