Monday, March 30, 2009

Somehow, I've ended up with a number of jewelry designer friends. Some are of the fine metalsmith artisan variety. Some are of the cute, affordable and fun variety. Cute, affordable and fun sounds pretty good right around now... This piece is made by Sisteria Designs. They use reclaimed game tiles and fine Japanese papers and make these pretty pendants. They just got their online store up and running so now you can order them directly.
Definitely a cool gift and if you and your friends collect enough of them, you can turn them over and play dominoes with them too.
This purty birdy is from Twicksie Jewels. I got it at Christmas, then immediately lost it as is my way. To my delight, I discovered it a few weeks ago when I pulled out my luggage again and found it in a forgotten pocket. Twicksie's lovely baubles are for sale here:

Friday, March 27, 2009

I walked a maze of pink and white trees in search of the faint scent of spring, but even this fresh blush has failed to alleviate the cool gray gloom. Almost everyone I come across is weighed down by it. No surprise, I guess.

What I am surprised by is how thoroughly I've abandoned my own writing over the last few weeks. I'm reading a lot. I'm thinking about my stories a lot. I'm thinking about story, in general, a lot. But all I have to offer is this paltry handful of words. The good thing about this is that it feels calm here. There's no worry that the words won't come back. I'm in a lull and think lull is a lovely word.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My brief time with my family in California left me with a few thoughts:

Nothing has broken my heart more quickly than the sight of my grandmother sobbing. I've never even seen the woman shed a tear, so to witness her red-faced and weeping, caught in a steady loop of lament and despair was overwhelming. I wanted to believe that a certain hardness or world-weary resignation developed with age, but grief is such a powerful thing that years alone are not enough to stop it.

That said, it was heartening to note just how well my grandmother raised her family. At a memorial full of hundreds of relatives and my aunt's friends and coworkers, I suddenly realized how few divorces there were among us. My grandmother was married for at least forty years before her husband died and each of her three daughters followed in her footsteps. Distant cousins I hadn't seen in years appeared with their spouses and grown children and more recently married relatives showed no signs of trouble. In a time when one parent households and multiple marriages are so common, I feel blessed to be a part of this clan that has learned how to hold on through the rough spots and find a solid source of love.

In that same room of hundreds, I became keenly aware of my sister, father and I as the tall, geeky ones being antisocial in the corner, the ones who left California and settled in New England. On top of that, I had to field an exhausting number of questions about being a writer. Being able to announce the title and publisher of my book among such a crowd is probably the number two reason I want to be published. Then there would be no reason for people to tell me about their neighbor's mother-in-law who works in publishing (though they do mostly science textbooks) or their friend who has a son in Hollywood who could turn my novel into a movie or how they don't really read anything but mysteries but they're sure my story is great. I don't want to deny my identity as a writer, but there are certainly benefits to leaving that portion out.

Of course, I will probably never see most of these people again. That was the final revelation of my visit. As the immediate family sat in my aunt's house in the hills of El Cerrito I realized how unlikely it is that I will ever be in that house again, or even in California again. Regular holiday visits there have been a part of my life from the time I was a baby. Now, with my grandmother moved out and my aunt gone, there is little reason to be there. Though my love for my uncle and cousins remains true, we have never had a connection independent of my aunt. While I used to be certain that I would live in California as an adult, I now leave it behind. An unexpected and entirely reluctant goodbye.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Less than a year ago, my Aunt Maureen was diagnosed with cancer. Last Saturday she finally succumbed. Now I fear that a few others will follow, her gregarious spirit unwilling to go out alone. Maybe her mother, my grandmother, will loosen the last few knots holding her here. Maybe her husband, whose heart was already tied together and tricked into working again, will find himself undone. He will have to find a way to sleep without her kicking feet, her slightly sour breath, her faint heat pulsing toward him.

Off I go to Oakland to be with the rest of Maureen's family and her wide blanket of friends to stumble through what we can. To say we will miss her is not enough.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Back from the woods and the tiny town of Shelton, WA. Elspeth Pope and the Hypatia-in-the-Woods organization gave me my week in the beautiful house Elspeth's late husband Jim built. The house is not just surrounded by trees, but seems to have grown right out of them. They were my constant companions. The top photo is the view out the bedroom window. Every morning I got up and felt like I was in a Grimm's Fairy Tale. Every day I sat looking out the dining room window at the trees in the bottom picture, a chaos of greenery. At night, I listened to the owls moan and sobbed over any small thing offered up in the movies I watched on my computer.

I thought long thoughts. I wrote words and barely erased anything at all. I bathed in silence. And by the end of the week my longing for home grew piercing. This is my way, my stubbornly middle path. I like the idea of falling full force into a piece of fiction, into language itself, but I can't obsess that way. It's rare that I pick up a book and can't put it down, no matter how much I love it. And when given all the time and space needed to dig deep into my own imaginary worlds, I only have so much breath. Good things happen down there below the surface, but I need to come up for air. I need to talk to my family and friends and walk down a busy street. I need to watch The Simpsons and rant about some bullshit on the news.

I'm thankful for my week away and equally thankful to be home.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Okay...I couldn't resist. No, that's not true. I could easily have resisted. However, I chose not to. I drove into thriving downtown Shelton, WA. Sat myself down at the libaray computer and pulled up my blog. And as I sit here I realize how little I miss it. After a walk, I will return to my little house in the woods. I will watch the cedar branches lay very still on top of other cedar branches. I will listen to the water drain from the dirt. I will follow my thoughts from ocean to desert. I will luxuriate in the solitude. The tiny ache. The wide, slow sweep.