Saturday, December 1, 2012



The Fairy of Eagle Nebula - ten light years tall and spewing radiation much hotter than common fire. The greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas and dust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars.

My mind is trying to absorb the fact that something can be 10 LIGHT YEARS TALL. How does that even make sense?!?

The Fairy of Eagle Nebula, Ten light years tall and spewing radiation much hotter than fire.  The Greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is an evaportting shell of gas and dust inside of which is a spectacular star nursey.

My daughter Erin posts NASA photos regularly on her blog, Thought and Memory, and I find myself dazzled and amazed by their beauty and scope.  All our mythology and religious dogma seems pale in comparison to these breathtaking glimpses of the cosmos.  This particular one was discovered by a man named Jean Phillippe de Cheseaux in 1745. It is in the constellation Serpens (Serpent).  It is 6,500 light years away from us.  Our first images of it came from the Hubble telescope in 1995, when it was named The Pillars of Creation.

Since light travels 186,000 miles a second, a light year is 5.88 trillion miles.  So this beautful Nebula is 39,000 trillion miles away from us and yet we can see it.  Or so we think.  It is 9.5 light years tall, 1 to 2 million years old and a nursery to 460 stars whose luminosity is 1 million times that of our sun.   

The columns that look like stalagmites are full of interstellar hydrogen gas and dust and they act as incubators of new stars.  Inside the columns and on their surface are knots of denser gas called EGGs, or Evaporaating Gaseous Globules.  Someone had a good time with that.  This is where the stars are being formed, as we speak; maybe. Because there is some evidence that the Pillars of Creation may have been destroyed in a supernova explosion 6,000 years ago. If so, the new shape of the pillars will take another 500 years to reach us.

How we know or surmise all of these events is quite naturally beyond the scope of my education. Apart from the Hubble telescope and its pictures, it is incomprehensible to me.  But those images have been the source of great awe and wonder. 

They cause me to think how insignificant we are, but also how easily the cosmos and mother nature can replace our efforts here with a new model, if we fail to right our planet.    

Sunday, November 4, 2012


The roof kittens have grown up and they return, not everyday but many mornings for a meal,  all but one.  The beautiful black and white cat with the wide blaze and sweet face has not been here for days, maybe weeks.  I am hoping that she is off in a safe corner with her kittens and that one morning she will return. I was away for a month and no one fed them in my yard.  I think they found other friends as they are sleek and lovely.  Upon my return they all came back to the roof and watched me solemly as I watered the garden or hung up the laundry.  That day our routine was restored and most mornings they wait for me.


But these roof dwellers never come down into my yard, because I have two dogs who live here.  Never mind that they would never hurt them, they would bark and chase and run in circles.  I know they wouldn't hurt them, because even in the middle of the night when they are beside themselves to go out and chase whatever they clearly know is in the patio, they come back satisfied no blood spilt. And when I go out to look, there sits in the garden a baby possum, slowly making its way out of the yard, unfazed. So, two new kittens have come to live with us, the dogs and me, in the house.  One found us when we were on our morning walk.  He was starving and motherless and totally unafraid of the dogs. He crossed a major road and marched right up to us. His voice and ears were most of what he had left and his desperation was so complete, it overcame fear.  I scooped him up and brought him home.  He was sick for two weeks and so small I could carry him to the vet in one hand.  He's grown into a sleek, spoiled beauty, still fearless and now a little imperious. Taking to wrapping his paws around my ankle to stop me in the kitchen when he wants more to eat.  Underfoot so much that finally it occurred to me that another kitten was the cure for this needing constant attention problem. And as the karma of the creative universe would have it, another appeared.  A small and perfectly beautiful kitten.
And here they are.....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

For Bandit & Future & Hannah et al

Nothing will break your heart quite like a dog. Maybe it has to do with how you can just pour love into them and they pour it right back. It’s one of the most uncomplicated and unconditional things you get to have in a lifetime. You might believe that you take care of them, but without fail, and whether you realize it or not, you are just providing for them while they take care of you. It’s why in spite of their old age or illness, if we can’t let them go, they won’t let go either. They will stay with us past the point of their own comfort just because they know we need them so.  It’s why if they absolutely can’t hold on, they wander off to die so as not to burden us one last time. They protect us for as long as they can. It’s why when we lose them, and always too soon, it hurts in such a specific way. Because we love them, very simply. But also because they forgive us for everything, long before we can forgive ourselves. Because on the days that we fail at all of it, fail to even get out of bed, they stay by our side. It’s like they have a secret way of seeing people that looks past all of the knotted flaws and defenses. You are always the best version of yourself to your dog.  They are generous and unstinting and they redeem us. It’s why the time they gave you outweighs your broken heart and somehow you still know how lucky you are to have known them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Backyard

I have posted some pictures of my backyard, but let me explain.

First there are the bumble bees in all their finery. They inhabit my orchid blossoms just as they did last year, burrowing into each blossom with a diligent gusto. I would like to know what rapture they find there, or is it merely duty.  I posted here about these bees last year. There were five blossoms last year and every morning a squadron of five bumblebees arrived to hover, one for each blossom.  My question to myself last year was how they knew to send just that number? Were they communicating bee to bee to bud.
 This year there are 8 blossoms and a bee for each.  I am now happily convinced that they have some special ways. They count and organize and open these blossoms in a matter of a very few days.  And then this magical ritual is over.  The blossoms are spent, the bees are elsewhere.  That is until next year. I think that we humans completely underestimate or maybe just ignore the wonder of how smoothly the natural world operates without our intrusion or participation.  It is humbling to see it in this small yearly drama.
But it is also true that had I not written about it here, on this marvel of technology last year, I would not have trusted my memory to report with confidence that these little furry fliers had indeed showed up again in the right number for their buds. And that funny little fact, that the universe has so carefully designed an existence for these buds and bees, supports me in my daily round.  It is sensible this lovely backdrop called the earth.  It is not random, it is infinitely detailed and gloriously arranged so that buds will open and bees will answer their call.  How could I be lost in the stars?
And here are the roof kitties. Actually there are four, maybe five and they live on the roof across from my house. I have had a rule that feeding these guys was not a good idea, unless I could trap them so that they wouldn’t multiply to numbers that would no longer fit on the roof. But this year I have succumbed.
This little litter sits perched on the roof watching me weed the garden and hang the laundry.  They look right into my eyes and don’t scurry backwards from the edge unless the dogs have come out to complain and remind them this yard is not theirs.  As if they would venture down. They are a motley crew.  The four you see here and another very shy little tabby.  So now every morning and every evening when they come out to watch me in the garden, I put a bowl of food on the bodega roof and I watch them.  They parry and dodge, nudge and wait, but finally, I think they share more or less.  Their mother comes by at times, but sits back, as if she knows this food is for them.  She does not eat it. Their future is a little uncertain, there is danger in the world for them, but I have succumbed and with that surrender comes commitment.  I will do my best.
I got a call this morning from the Harrison Street Café.  A very presentable young man was calling to tell me that my daughter Erin’s cell phone was left there at the café.  He said he figured mom was the best number to call and so he did.  Harrison Street Café and my daughter are thousands of miles and a day’s travel from here.   How lovely that I can email her or call her sister and tell her where to find her phone. A beeline of a sort, thanks to human ingenuity.  How small is our world or how big is my backyard?  We are definitely not lost in the stars.


Monday, July 2, 2012

If it’s true (and I’ve been told it’s true) that all these particles that make up this thing I am (and the thing that is you) were forged in the furnace of some dark dark night, were made in the belly of some distant star, is it any wonder I feel so unmapped? Uncharted insides with valleys I can’t see the bottom of, maybe tiny glowing fish swimming through the lowest reaches, somewhere down past my toes. And maybe my freckles are not freckles, but pin-points on a globe, places where the things I said to you once bubbled up from, where that one dream about the ocean occupying a corner of my bedroom came from, places where something has been discovered or uncovered or lost. And if we spin as fast as they say we do, is it any wonder I’m often so dizzy, dazzled and uncertain, unsteady on my feet as we careen through so much unknown matter and space between matter. I want to know and I don’t want to know, curious but so in love with mysteries. How lonely and harshly lit might it be if everything was suddenly revealed, forever stuck being exactly what it is?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"I grow old"

When people think of old folks do they imagine Seymour Glass’s fat lady, sitting on her front porch in her rocking chair, swatting flies, probably ill with some old person’s disease, listening to her radio turned up loud? Or J. Alfred Prufrock, questioning whether he dare disturb the universe or eat a peach: “I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” But that’s not it. That is what I thought of old age when I was young and looking at it from afar.

Now, I think instead that being old is more like life was when I was young and I could call up a friend to say, meet me at the high school parking lot with your bike and a sandwich. Let’s go exploring. Or when I could wander up to the grade school ball field and find a pick up softball team. Possibly short in the outfield, but so what. Alone, yes, in that I went home to my own room and only shared some of my thoughts but with plenty of good and invigorating company.

Of course summer would come and we would claim to be bored at times, but still it flew by. But those days then and now, when we claimed boredom, were so still and hot that simply gathering and breathing seemed sufficient activity. We shared the air, the day, our passing thoughts. Then as now this self-same sensation lives in me. Of a day passed in good company to no effect that the world will notice, but all the same, sweet and shared.

And then comes the day when we are on the merry chase for a new experience, a road trip, a day in the country, a movie, a new project. Fully aware that the project is ephemeral, an enthusiasm that we enjoy, but will not save the world.

This is the benediction that is well-spent on the young and the old. We are here to discover ourselves, our surroundings, our commonalities; it does not require tangible results. It requires a mind at work, sifting, musing, and gathering sense, breathing deeply the cause of human existence. Still hoping that things were turn out alright, but now not just for ourselves, but for the world entire.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why are blank pages so terrifying? Come to think of it, why are most things so terrifying?

There’s really no way to start but to start. Maybe a sharp intake of breath, squeezed eyelids and one step. Like blank pages. Like the running leaps we took out of the hay loft as children, time to barely notice the dust motes swirling in impossible patterns, the bright bars of sunlight, before the jump, the nothing, just your banging heart. I try not to think too much of the future these days. I know it is not promised. I’ve seen it snatched away. It’s easy to build castles in your head. It’s less easy to try and wrap yourself around this very moment, the only one you have, no running commentary, no safe distance, no smirk. Just you. The feeling of falling. Your banging heart.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sometimes it feels like everything I do is for an audience of ghosts. I am confounded by the weight of this time I have been given that you were not, and the notion that I cannot, CAN NOT, misuse it. But it's hard to wake thanking every day, especially knowing it was a similar day that took you in the first place. I want to carry you into the future, tucked safe in the folds of my mind and upper chambers of my heart. How is it that life can be more, but still so importantly, elegy after elegy after elegy?

"Your absence has gone through me   
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color." -W.S. Merwin

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Notes for a Quiet Revolution

My daughters and I started this blog so that we could have a place to put our thoughts and talk about how to live in the world, something akin to writing letters. Emails are too short, Facebook too public. I had changed my place in the family by leaving for a foreign country. No more Sunday dinner discussions, no impromptu bull sessions. I needed a place to think out loud. Over the past year of wondering about how to live in the world in this letter to my daughters, it has become clear to me just how difficult it can be.

All of the hubbub around the book and movie “The Hunger Games” has pointed out that we and most especially young adults need a hero. It is particularly satisfying that the hero has a female face. Katniss Everdeen stands on moral ground in that story, in a world driven by style without substance, she is a hero.

So that is what I want to think about. How to stand on moral ground in a world driven by imperatives that are amoral at best, fraudulent at times and often just plain wrong. I suppose those politicians on the right would claim that their morality is self-evident and unquestionable, but I think not. Those on the left make the same claims. But I see a system that in its entirety chugs along on dollar bills and avarice. One man gives the birther movement a million dollars because he wants Israel to be able to continue building settlements and he doesn’t trust our current president to support that. Gun manufacturers fund legislative lobbyist to encourage laws that endanger people, but sell many, many guns. We carry on a violent and unsuccessful war on drugs and fund private prisons to hold offenders without thinking of a better way to tackle this problem. And a better way is to many of us so obvious. The war machine builds unbelievably costly jets that are already out dated and cuts funding to schools and the poor. It is easy to fall into thinking that there is nothing I can do. The wheels that turn are too big. The piles of money too high, the influence purchases peculiar solutions.

But 99% is a big number. It signifies millions of people who together have power. A friend of mine reminds me that it is well past time to begin living the life that we claim to want to live. In many ways we do live that life, eating local food, buying second hand or local products, making ethical choices where ever possible. And just now there are signs that the internet makes a difference. It gives power to our voices. Look how ALEC is being challenged, losing funding from Coca Cola, Pepsi, Mars candy and MacDonald’s. It seem like a drop in the proverbial bucket of corporate voodoo, but it is good news, all the same. It must have dawned on those corporations that the people who buy their products are the ones kicking up the fuss. I think , if we add daily life changes, not just the electronic and virtual ones, we will have the makings of a quiet revolution.

So what do I mean by daily life changes? Shift your thinking and you will change your behavior. Change your behavior and you will shift your thinking.
Here are some ideas about changes in thinking….and/or behavior..

Stop drinking coca cola, a non-food product that is reported to remove rust. Stop feeding it to your children.

So change your behavior, drink water or mineral water. Add lime or a little fruit juice. If you do that for a couple of months, the next time you have a coke, it will taste way too sweet and not even quench your thirst. I guarantee it.

Don’t eat anything that comes in a box. Buy fresh food and prepare it, including cereal. If you can’t make it or bake it, buy it from a local baker or restaurant. Who knows what is in the food tha comes in a box that never rots or molds or changes as nature intended it. You may find that you feel way better in two months’ time. Your body doesn’t need preservatives.

Even if you have a car, try to live as if you don’t. Now that I have been car free for five years, I have to say the only times I am late for class are when I have borrowed a car, I cut the time short to get there, because I can and then can’t find a place to park. I know how long it takes to walk or take the bus. There are glitches involved in not having a car. Things that are to heavy to carry, days that are too hot to walk far, but if most of us didn’t have cars, we would think up some pretty creative ways to deal with that. Walking is a pleasure, if the bus breaks down, it is not my problem. For the really luxurious days there are taxi cabs. No fuss no muss and a brand new person to talk to. Peace and exercise, what a concept.

Plant some food, somewhere, anywhere, on your roof in an empty lot near your home in your back yard, in a pot on the patio. Remember what a tomato tastes like? Whatever you want to savor…grow it. During the war 40% of the produce consumed in the US came from victory gardens. And you will remember what a miracle it all is. Tasty tomatoes, zucchini the size of a baseball bat and you cannot weigh or measure what is missing from the earth. We have forgotten that dirt and topsoil are very special and we need to be careful with them and we have not been careful with them. Evidence the reported perfectly safe roundup, turns out is not so safe.

So dirt. That brings up another topic. Composting and worms, a magnificent team. Your garbage, your fallen leaves, your grass clippings, pile them up, add some worms and you have good earth, brand new ready to go in a matter of months. No plastic bags needed. Just a big pile.

The really cool thing is that as the 99%, if we make a change, it is a big change;
99% of us walking or cycling to work, 99% of us growing half our own food, 99% of us not drinking coca cola. Imagine it, it is magnificent and sweeping and within our power.....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

  I love the sea and the sky and myself on a little spit of land between them. And I'm beautiful just like they are because I'm here and lucky and witness to a million miracles daily. Beautiful for my blood that smells like copper and space dust. Beautiful for having a heart that beats and breaks like waves for the shore, for my salt tears and my skin stretched like speckled canvas over the frame of my bones. For all the things that inhabit the cracks between my atoms. For all the things I can say and I can’t say. For every dream I’ve ever had. For my brain coiled like a snake in my skull. For my black bile and humors and the tiny twisting ladders that built me and gave me my history but can’t explain my memory. And so are you. You are so beautiful too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012


My little heart is shipwrecked, tangled in the reef of my ribs. I'm taking on so much water that I'm always seconds away from being overcome. No ebb in sight. So I only speak in specific tenses, trying to corral my unruly thoughts. I fastidiously avoid songs with certain chord progressions and refuse to look up each evening when the sky is that treacherous shade of blue that can break me. I'm not sure it's helping. It's strange to be so lonely yet know that everyone endures this from time to time, except perhaps the luckiest or the most cowardly. I try to remind myself it's not too heavy a price, even just for that one sun-drenched day. For that memory I am indebted, and will not shush my bleating heart. For that perfect early summer day I would pay it twice, or a hundred times.
This is that blue.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I found myself within spitting distance of my 65th birthday and for the first time or so it seemed, not able to believe in anything; not good government, not organized religion, not protest marches, not free market economies, not silent auctions, not the girl scouts or the apocalypse. It makes it a little tough to get out of bed in the morning. I spent 65 years getting up for some good reason or other and they had all deserted me. Marched right out of my life.

It all came tumbling down over a little dustup in a small library in the Yucatan. In this scale model of the larger world, I learned close up that the truth is fragile, public opinion is temporary and a hastily contrived perception satisfies most casual observers and by the way, most people are casual observers.
Extrapolate this little political fracas to the larger world of drones and assassinations, global warming and Planned Parenthood and you can pretty much guess my numb terror. How in the world could someone, anyone believe or verify anything. And so the only place for my thinking to go was the, I believe nothing place.

This did not solve my problem about getting out of bed in the morning or afternoon, or at all….I needed a cause, a skill, a razón de ser. Dogs only work for so long and then, being the kind spirits that they are, they decide that if sleep is what the lady wants, we’ll stay right here and sleep too, never mind that walk.
The first call to action came from the parrots. Many mornings a flotilla of parrots careens through my neighborhood and stops in the ceiba tree in my backyard to fuss. It sounds like complaint, of course it could be the news of the day. Without that tree, I would not have this, vocal and much needed, early morning call to action. Their noisiness certainly lends quality to my life, I get up. But a larger question invades my sleepy mind. How would those guys get from place to place without trees to make a path with rest stops. They are terrible fliers. They look like they might fall to the ground in a loud mess at any moment. I doubt they would make it across town, never mind that, how would we get from place to place without trees along the way. After all we breathe in air every seven seconds or so, last I counted, and we need trees to put oxygen into that air. Without it we are frankly dead.

So those two somewhat related thoughts got me from horizontal to vertical. Maybe here is a non-political- something to do that is; good for the world, good for me, and doesn’t lead to the inevitable disappointment of the naïve. Trees……
I point my pajama clad sadness to the computer, with a cup of coffee, (now declared good for you) and look it up. Naturally the internet delivers a handy list of fast facts. I keep searching to verify them, but they are repeated ad nauseum by many tree sites, leaving me wondering who originated them and how “true” they are. Don’t forget I am a newly minted cynic. But here they are with a promise that I will dig deeper in future.

In one year an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven 8,700 miles. Hey handy way to reduce your carbon footprint…plant an acre of trees and drive 8, 500 miles that year…net gain. Other sites give much more generous mileage.

Shade and shelter of trees reduce heating and cooling costs an estimated 2.1 billion dollars. Wonder how they figured that one out.

One acre of trees creates sufficient oxygen for a year for 18 people. Do you know 18 people you want to put on virtual life support? The self-same acre removes 2.6 tons of CO2. And the shade from said trees can drop the temperature as much as 20 degrees…that would be Fahrenheit, I think. It takes ten years for a tree to reach its peak of doing all of the above….

Trees also cut noise pollution, stabilize soil erosion, improve water quality and provide shelter for wild life.

Trees take 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and only 10% from the soil. Think for a minute what a miracle of nature that is. What a gift. But there is more. Trees do not ever, yes never, die from old age. They are the longest living organisms on earth. They are only killed by insects, disease or PEOPLE…..

Trees can induce rainfall and cool the land. In one day one large tree can lift up 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air, an acre of maples, 20,000 gallons in one day. Needless to say this has an enormous effect how peacefully water moves around our planet. An as of 2011, there are 81.5 million acres ( other sources say 1.4 billion acres) of trees in the Amazon Basin. Do the math. It is stunning. Some people estimate that this represents ½ of the planets trees and 20% of our oxygen. Certainly it forms some of our weather patterns. There are estimates that we are losing 1 and ½ acres of the rainforest every second and that by 2030 55% of the Amazon Basin rainforest will be gone. This is a huge topic for another day, but it rivals in my mind the melting ice as a harbinger for dramatically different conditions on earth. (Oh yea and it is definitely political.)

Back to happier facts. Trees have been shown to have a psychological benefit reducing both blood pressure and muscle tension when people are shown or placed in a tree environment. There is evidence that hospital patients recover faster and prisoners are healthier when they can see trees from their confinement. Police believe that adding trees to a community reduces crime.

Finally, even when a tree succumbs to disease insects or human activity, it continues its nurturing ways. At the very least it replenishes the soil as it decays. But otherwise, it becomes your house, your chair, your casket, your violin. That’s some last act.


“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Anonymous

There you have it. I have my reason to be; trees and a hero, Johnny Appleseed, my guides, the parrots. I can plan and plant trees, one by one, no politics, no organization, no fundraising needed. And it will work for a while, until I know too much and study too much and want to crowd source funds to save the rainforest or something similar and then the politics begin again, but for today a kind of beautiful simplicity prevails. I think I will enjoy it.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”
Chinese Proverb

PS. This was written yesterday. Today I am happy to say that The Komen Foundation capitulated in one day and restored funding to Planned Parenthood, based on the force of public outrage, pressure and persuasion. Way to go everyone who lifted a finger and noted their disgust. This lifts my spirits about the power of the everyday right thinking person to see the truth of a political situation and reject it.
The future will be full of the unruly wonderfulness of flash mobs and crowd sourcing and we are going to use it for the benefit of all. Come on people, we do have a voice. (Don’t forget boycotting, that works too.)