In the Quiet of Morning

In the quiet of the morning is the hum of the computer, the ruffling of the curtain lifting with the breeze, the chirp of crickets, the roar of a distant motor, hammering, a bird chirping, a car rolling by, a dog barking, the footsteps of a man coming back from market, cicadas, a door slamming, the whine of a power saw, the sound of my breath, an airplane coming closer and then fading, the clicking of the keyboard, the fabric of my shirt rubbing, the voices of people I don't know, a ladder being extended, a small creature gnawing on the house, my chair creaking, a lawn mower starting, sticks breaking, a delivery truck rumbling down the street, keys jangling, my husband singing, a chair sliding across the floor downstairs, my husband sighing and walking into the kitchen, a joint in my back cracking, an unidentifiable tapping.


Annoying Things

When it is so humid that the floor feels sticky on my bare feet.

When my husband crushes his soda can and puts it in my bag without me knowing so that when I go to retrieve something from my bag I find there are little drops of soda all over my things making them sticky.  How annoying!

When the children hold my hands and I can tell they haven't washed theirs in a long time.

When the children hang on my hands making my wrists ache.

When I find bits of food around the house after telling the children a thousand times to eat only in the kitchen.

When people ask me to do things I don't want to do.

Sand on the floor after we've come back from the beach.

Things sitting on the counter that I don't know what to do with.

Lids that don't match containers.  Containers that don't have lids.

Windows that don't open.

Mosquitoes that buzz in the ear.

A brand new book with a cover that curls up when it rains.

Unbagged trash thrown into the garbage can that sticks to the bottom and begins to stink.

Wet towels that get buried in the hamper and begin to smell moldy.

Moldy smells coming from vents.

People who drive right against my bumper when I am going the speed limit and then honk and make obscene gestures when they pass.

Shoes left out in the rain.

Not being able to get on the internet.

Computers that don't work that way I want them to.

Children asking me how to spell things when I am trying to read.

The wind blowing papers that I have just laid out neatly.


Excerpt From An Unpublished Essay: Lonely in Kino or The Long Stretch of Day. Chasing Sand Pipers

Walking back towards New Kino and the posada where a pair of my sandals lie on the floor and a jar of salsa sits open on the desk and two toothbrushes balance on sink's edge, a place that is surprisingly easy to think of as home, I am optimistic now that I have survived another odd day, alone and pregnant in the heat of a foreign land, now that I am returning to where I started.  Pelicans flap their wings, their prehistoric beaks tickled by the tips of the waves, and children drag red and yellow buckets, chasing sand pipers, splashing the water with their feet.  Teenagers sit together under umbrellas, talking on their phones and slapping each other teasingly on the arms.  And the seagulls hop from one foot to another, nervous at the shrinking of their beach as more and more people wake from their siestas and come down to swim. I am buoyant as evening approaches.  I roll along, one foot to the next, listening to the slap of ocean water and the static of human noises as if it were music, smelling sea weed and sun tan lotion and the relief that rises from my skin.


New Release

I am at a friend's house and see among the books her husband has checked out of the library, a book by a writer I admire.  I didn't know this writer had a new book out and though I don't know this writer personally, I feel slighted, as if this writer should have contacted me because I get such a strong charge from this writer's work, that just holding her book makes me want to run home and write my own weird little stories which, if she knew, might make her feel just as slighted as I do when I discovered she published a new book without telling me.


Sandbox Lesson #1

Make sure your sandbox is clean and clear of distractions.

Develop good habits right from the start.  Sit tall.  Do not slouch.
This is a shovel.

Shoveling an entire shovelful of sand is called a whole scoop.

When you see a  
shovel one whole scoop.

Now try this:

Shovel four scoops with a steady rhythm.

Try not to shovel off beat!  Use a metronome to help keep a steady beat.

Practice shoveling until you can shovel for three minutes without making a mistake.

For best success, practice daily.

Next lesson: Half scoops


Excerpt From An Unpublished Essay: Lonely in Kino or The Long Stretch of Day. A Fisherman's Bar

At the shore where the beach makes a shallow bay, down by where the fishermen drag their boats onto the sand, is a large metal shed with no windows where you can buy one kind of beer.  A woman with dark ringed eyes wearing a little girl’s tank top and shorts, leans on the doorway with one leg wrapped around the other.  From the dark interior floats the sounds of a TV laugh track and a child crying.  Several fisherman hang around, sitting on the overturned belly of a boat, standing in the shade of the bar, waiting for nothing, hoping for something, in the golden light of falling afternoon, where everything smells like gasoline and rotting fish and salt water.


Zuihitsu: A 10th Century Case

All this technology confuses me, such a great many choices at such a speed!  I know how quaint that sounds, like those first people who road in automobiles, reporting the terrifying, head spinning sensations of moving at 30 miles per hour.

When my head starts spinning, I remind myself to sit on the bed with a notebook and pen.

Sometimes I feel guilty, noticing that the boys are watching another movie.  Maybe I should have taken them to the Y.  But time is limited so here I am, spending it selfishly, sitting on my bed, following the line that falls onto the paper.

Sei Shonagon, a courtesan in 10th century Japan, kept a journal that she hid in the drawer of her wooden pillow, taking notes on court trysts and annoyances, making lists of "very tiresome things."

Here's what Dennis Washburn says in the introduction to Arthur Waley's strange and much abbreviated translation of Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book.

The Pillow Book is an early example of an extremely important genre in Japanese, the miscellany, or zuihitsu (literally, "following one's brush") - a form of jotting or literary wandering.  Zuihitsu gives the writer considerable freedom to use a variety of forms and touch on a wide range of subjects.  

Sounds to me like a terminal case of whimsy.

Ha!  There she is, on the other side of the planet, one-hundred and one decades back, inking little nothings on paper, dreaming that someone might read them.


Anonymous Blogger

I come upon a blog, not a year old, only half a dozen entries, talking of places I know with a foul-mouthed anger inspired by the affair that the writer’s wife is having while the writer stays home with the kids.  Do I know these people?  He attacks his wife’s character and then asks us to empathize with his flawed one (some mental illness, perhaps?) which we do, because the writing is very good.  Names are named. Details given. I determine the identity of the anonymous blogger.  A true shock, my impression so different from this aggressively intelligent and angry writer.  How many different selves we each are, and here, the most manipulative and intimate, the literary self, whispering lines onto paper that whisper to a reader, images that enrapture our emotions.  The caressing bodies.  The rising action.  The falling action.  The denouement. 


Write By Heart

The boys are congregating on the porch and I am reading On the Road, for the second time because the first time I only made it a short way in before I myself had to take to the road leaving behind everything familiar except myself which may have been the thing I most wished to leave behind, for a while at least, but it was not meant to be.

Now I am not on the road and restless because the summer is fading fast, and I am faced with the prospect of returning to teaching classes at the high school, and it fills me with a panic, not feeling confident that I can pull it off even though I've done it before, it always feels like starting from zero because I can't stand to do things the same way twice, even those classes I've supposedly taught before feel just as new as if I never have, and whether that's bad or good, I don't know, but I do know how I feel and that is exposed and incompetent and nervous.

I'm not supposed to admit any of this, I also know, because it is not professional and being unprofessional is frowned upon, but I have never been a professional at anything except being an amateur and since I'm already past 40, I suppose that's how things will remain.  Sometimes I wish things were different, but sometimes I don't, and I don't imagine that would change even if I were a professional, I'd look at some amateur sitting on the porch, fingering a banjo, and dream about a life free of all that professionalism, though other times I might feel great relief that I wasn't so adrift, like I said, sometimes wishing things were different and sometimes being thankful they weren't, exactly the same way I feel now.

Where all this comes from I don't know, a gene drifting down from Siberian gypsies or a reaction to how I was raised or a product of my culture?  These things are hard to sort out and complicated and probably not worth the effort since there never will be a straight answer except for it's just the way things are so why not accept it?

What I do know is that taking the time and space to write these things down gives me a satisfaction that I don't get doing other things and it keeps me feeling calm.  Whether that is because I've taught myself that habit, like brushing my teeth gives me a certain amount of peace, or whether it is some ancient human thing stuck in the DNA, I don't know, but it makes me feel agitated and depressed even when it's sunny and everyone is lovely and I have many hours, if I can't come up with something to write.  That makes me crazy, like a caged animal, so I pace around the house, wasting the day.

It doesn't make any sense because there are always so many important things to be doing, scraping paint or earning money or grocery shopping or cooking or spending time with people I love, but I can't seem to do any of those things or even be content if haven't scribbled something down, even if it's something that has been scribbled many times before.


Excerpt From An Unpublished Essay: Lonely in Kino or The Long Stretch of Day. "Seri Originals"

Around the corner from the ice cream parlor that one could mistake for a puppet show stage, shallow and big faced and screaming out circus music, is the cafĂ© where all the Gringos eat chile rellanos and tamales and drink horchata because the floor is smooth and swept and the owner wears a clean apron and keeps her hair tucked away in a bun and has, by good fortune, straight off-white teeth.  The Gringos meet there in the afternoon and feel reassured because they have learned to tell time by the sun and learned to love tortillas and say Hola! to the fishermen who don't even nod from the shadows of the twisted trees, watching the Gringos emerge from their shiny vehicles.  
The Gringos love the cafe because it is in Old Kino, tucked in among "the people" and the shacks and sandy unpaved streets.  The building isn't different from any of the other aluminum shacks, but is pleasant with a pot of fake flowers hanging from a dusty beam and a two year old calendar nailed to the back of the door. 
            Sometimes a new Gringo is there, sent by the woman who runs the posada, and then they have new ears to tell all about Kino and how the Seri Indians used to live east until they were pushed to the ocean by the Spanish, and lived here on this beach until they were forced into the mountains by the Ladinos, and how they carved animal figurines out of ironwood and wove tremendous baskets until a Ladino saw they were making money and copied the designs and produced them in factories and sold them cheap with the label "Seri Originals" and no one knew the difference so the Indians themselves came into town, bought pack loads full, carried them back up to their villages and sold them for a huge profit to the Gringos who searched them out, looking for the real thing.