Seven years ago in 2010 before California, before north cubby holes and south green rooms and southwest desert sandstorms, I would stand on the deck waiting tables at the Yacht Club in Ocean Pines, wind blowing (like a million different Pusser’s winds, Naptown holllaaa wudup Chessie and back then) and it blew warm and westerly like Hawaii, through my hair.
By the time second season came on that wind blew every single time a cover band played Ventura Highway. The kind of timing that always makes me giggle, alright alright haha I hear you, mama earth-G0d-Mystery-Baby Jesus, whatever it is. All Love no disrespect. Ventura Highway special wind all that Fall.
Anyway, that’s how I knew I would roll. Or how the Call came when I said yes to it All. Listening to the wind 🙂
Chessie the Bay Monster at Light City last weekend, where the Bay meets the City, Inner Harbor, Bmore
Now that I’m back home, land of birth-home original-soul home, I think all the time about Pirate Life. Haha maybe you have to be a writer to understand this? All love to Erika and our Nous, if so. My own private inside though, my secret place to run, haha since I was a kid! Is a yohohum deep in there that came alive whenever I neared the tide line of beach mud.
It’s been really alive since June 2015, when I arrived back in Maryland after a 10-day on the road cruise, back east from Laguna Beach. California Adventure behind me.
Pirate Life. I can’t help it you guys. Argh y’all, it’s true. I listen to the wind 🙂
Other things Calling. It was CSNY Southern Cross that called me again, back home here. And ohhh for real, oh wow them warm Laguna Canyon winds.
Carl Jung called these synchronicity. Joseph Campbell lined up coincidences in rows and said, this network from inside to outside you that you can follow is Divine, is the Mystery, and when you acknowledge this, you Follow your bliss.
This blog is a sweet outpost for me: A crow’s nest for my soul. A high and wide in the branch somewhere in the home of a Keebler elf. Hobbit style keeping eye lookout on all the kids. Thanks for letting me indulge the Words as a way of saying thanks to the Holy What Is.
Sister leans over, says I smell rain.
As soon as it’s said, there it is, the dirt-metal scent. God California, so full of wimps, at least west of the 5. Everyone complaining about the heat. It is only 85, there is a breeze coming up under the trees which happens when you live beside the sea.
But then the wind brings the smell of rain and I feel my body rise. An ache, I crave. It’s not that I mind the heat. I actually love the slow thick drama of Maryland mug. It’s that it’s hard for the body to remember suddenly, to reach out in cellular grappling for what it expects.
And how what you expect gets all messy and confused with thinking about what you want.
In Southern California rain doesn’t come to break the heat.
The heat lightening doesn’t light up purple yellow netting behind the clouds. When the sea breeze blows it doesn’t smell like Old Bay. The coasts don’t dock fishermen boats.
I go out to the front lawn to watch the sun go down. The grass is so crunchy it scratches my back. I am grateful there is a spot behind the building with green lawn and a pine tree with a base that’s fat and round. I go there instead to breathe and feel the green. The sun is already behind the foothills and that California is what I do get, what at least I know I need if not want. Night after night of final nod to the light. Night after night of thanks.
There is so much a heart can hold, and so much it often forgets.
The body remembers though. If you let it, it reminds you, it will let you know.
The thing you don’t know til you live here is the way palm tree leaves look when they bend in the wind. The Santa Ana’s. They’re real. They come sailing down the canyon with whole lists of lusty springtime wants. You hear them ranting and can barely breathe. High white-sun days of Santa Ana wind force a palm leaf bend streaked silver like the color of Christmas tinsel mixed with snow. Like an upside down smile, without the sadness of a frown. Upside down silver frenzy grin. Palm leaves in the hot sun-wind. And then you live here, and the thing is you’re driving PCH salivating over exotic trees one day, because that’s grace: The sudden appreciation of all that is. Silver Christmasy tinsel smiles lined up in wind-bent rows.
You’ve stopped drinking caffeine, you did this months ago because when your godmother died you were so strung out on Red Bull you could go round for round with it up against your single grlfriends at the bar. Except they were losing their inhibitions while your high-wired anxiety from energy drinks just drove the men away. After the lash flash number grab and flirty repartee. Caffeine effects everything, most especially your writing. When you went off it for good it was the slowest part of August, when it’s yellow melt and dust in the canyon and they’re bored shirtless bros everywhere. You didn’t get off the couch for three weeks and finally told your shrink pretty sure I’m depressed. She looked concerned, told you keep up with the resting. It wasn’t til September, after you relapsed on Americanos that weekend with Papa J camping at San Elijo that you realize. Oh shit, that was my coming off period. All those slow-coming understandings, reflections, quiet stillness. All those sighs of grace. That was all from going off 20 years of caffeine! So you’re in to it these days, things that slow your flow.
Grace. If you’re lucky, it slows your flow. But then what’s luck, other than grace? Willingness maybe? Willingness to see? The sudden shift of the eye, to catch the sun on the mountains, how the light and comfy green roll roll roll bump bump bump together like a skateboard over cement seams. Or maybe, the willingness to appreciate it. That could be luck. A funny sort of preparation. The willingness to meet grace half way.
And grace? That thing that cleans the eyes, so you can see.
I am thinking about you, California, you used to make me feel brave.
I stopped on a side-road outside Santa Rosa to eat tacos. There was a sale on RedBull which is all I drank. It was after a weekend making love with a pot grower on a secret coast hidden by the North trees. We ate oysters and he took me to a place with caves and cliff-crag clearings where I could lay naked in the grass in the sun. I tucked wildflowers in my hair. I had to rearrange my living so I pulled off the Avenue into a little womb space where the pine needles lay and ensure no sound. I took everything out of the car and put it on the ground: Now, to clear out and remake my little house. When you live in your car and your home is the road there’s never any place you’ve got to go. There was a stretch of land on the Sonoma coast where the ancients used to talk in rock-tree language, clean as wave spray. I ran the 1 up and down. I was running from nothing, nothing to run to. Just the pure relationship between movement and the ground. I listened to the native speak. Oh land. You’ve always been my home.
You~you made me brave.
Remember when I used to be frightened of the sea? Not the mama prima, oh Atlantic, who raised me? But wild, thrashing Pacific, untamed, unknown one? This was up north, Goat Rock, where the froth was so spiteful it shook the beach with thunder sound. Now I bow at your feet, Sleepy Hollow, Thousand Steps, Crescent Bay, and move as breath does from the lungs into the autonomous air. Aqua green peace. I move into you, mama, with you. I hear no sound. I am no more separate from motion than stillness is.
On Tuesdays now I often take PCH home. The line of dusk on the horizon is dark blue or purple-orange. Coming down Macarthur near Fashion Island where the bunnies are in a circle for the Easter Parade. That is when you first see the sea. Catalina laid out like a woman on her back and I always catch my breath like she is me, like I am that breathless woman made ecstatic from the sea’s all the time covetous caress. When you see her lips part that is my moan. The line of palms on the Coast Highway in Corona Del Mar from that vantage look like giants at the foot of breathless woman. She gives her breath to the sea it helps her rise and fall through the respiration of the trees.
I open my sunroof because in the dark on Tuesday’s even if the clouds are out you can still feel the still simple breathing of the stars. I drove the coast and felt their light in my hair. I pulled over on Cliff Dr to feel the sliver moon. I called Jon then drove up in to the high canyon hills. The land ran through me with the tremor-weight of horse thighs. It was so much to contain in through the windows, in through the sunroof, crescent moon and all those hills, that I stopped the car and turned off my lights in the middle of the road. My breath was so thick with you I had to gasp.
California, I am thinking about courage. My body without you is brittle. My muscles barely move. I lay in bed and feel the stars still in my hair from the sunroof and can’t deny the truth in quiet, the truth behind your dark moon.
There is no homesick lost as the want for a good steak and cheese. It is January, California-mild, the way the smell of grease sits in the back of the throat hits me for no reason as a body sense, makes me think, damn, back there they must be cold. There are no delis here, no sub joints, no liquor stores with a line at the grill. It’s dad’s birthday. In DC there is six inches of snow but he didn’t close the school, is just letting them come in at 10. His voice, thirty years older than mine, is clean and round on the phone, in that way that I know he’s handled his exhaustion. I give quiet thanks that Monday was a holiday because it means he took the time to rest, be still. You’re a hard ass, dad, I say to him and he laughs that laugh that says back to me I’m on top of my game.
Like he would know what to do with himself if he did cancel classes today. He’s at uncle Tim’s, where he lives through the week, two hours away from the house he calls home which is at the beach. I know dad, he’d drive through all the snow on Kent Island just to get down there for an extra day, even if the golf courses are closed from snow.
On Friday as soon as I hit the freeway a thought came again that’s been cozying around in my head. I drive the 5 for freedom, PCH for peace. It tells me I am home. In Oregon when I lived there on the coast I learned that you need at least a full year, one whole turn of all the seasons, before a place will let you know it, will really let you in. Well, my year in Laguna came in August and I had decided to cut and run, was packing and selling to move back to Maryland. That didn’t happen though, the Muses had other plans, here I sit instead, writing desk in front of the window looking out at trees growing from the side of the canyon. Makes me want my backpack, long nights under the stars, the cool feeling of nights in a tent.
And so I am my father’s child, a wild run frenzy that dictates, like he says, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. But that’s not it, entirely. The need to run, the holy can’t stay still. There’s assimilation in it for me, the step-on-it fastness of sun-roof open windows down loud music that stirs it all up, because that’s just who I am, what I need sometimes. A quick shake up that helps me see better who I am when I land. I drove to Venice Friday the smog to the north of me dense as a brick. El Segundo was Saturday in the back seat of Deanna’s Volt, Monrovia on Sunday to watch the game with Paul. Because this place, this here, this is my home. If not forever, at least right now. Which means the 5 is possibility and PCH my back roads, where I go for a slow meander, shades of light, the sweet taking in of what is slow.
Home is a funny thing. I think of dad who would rather brave all that snow than have to sit around in a place not his own. He didn’t tell me that, but I think I get it. It takes a while sometimes for a place to open up and let you in. Or maybe, it takes a person a while, sometimes, to do the same.
I left Derynne’s this morning before her or the kids were up. Everything in my blood was curling towards the sea, and it was painful driving in the direction of the blue balm on the horizon with that only-in-the-morning-is-it-this-color sheen. Catalina was painted over in pink. It was hard to leave because that’s where my heart is, the people I love, and also where I surfed when surfing was more a part of my daily routine: Huntington Beach. It’s different in Laguna, where there are rocks and jags and cliff crags and I don’t know the tide or a single local break well enough to go by myself. These are excuses. But wistfulness will lead out of and lead you, some road map you follow though you don’t even know why or how.
On PCH I turned the volume up on my iPod and had to laugh. It was me. Literally, shuffle had pulled up a track of myself. In 2010, a month before I quit my old career and moved to the beach in Maryland to sit in the whimsy open-endedness of what next, I took a road trip to Vermont in a car load of four other people so I could speak at this big conference on staying clean and sober as a young person. We drove all night and in the morning found out the bridge was out at Lake Champlain. Sleepless and panicked I had a melt down and hours later was shaking my head in wonder that I, crazy ass me, was going to speak to all these kids? Periodically, it will come on shuffle, but because of the way it was recorded it will just play three or five minutes of the talk instead of the whole hour.
This morning the part was me talking about the fact that I had just quit my career and was in full surrender to the world, life, God, the Muses, the power, the mystery, whatever you or I choose to call it from day to day hour to hour. Was literally with my hands up and arms wide in “What next? Take it all…” as in take all of my ideas, every last one, and may I be still enough to feel it when you move my heart. And there came the head shake, the great irony: the birdseye view. Four years later, I live an entire coast away, have the tiny writer’s studio by the sea I always could see in my heart’s eye, am a grad student at an Institution I have been stalking ever since I first learned of Joseph Campbell on PBS in 1998. I told Derynne about it last night: one morning I woke up. That’s what happened, I woke up and was driving to my cousin Erin’s in Baltimore one morning, with the windows down listening to the trees. And suddenly I realized I was on the wrong highway, hadn’t been paying attention, and at once, that I was heading in the wrong direction in my life. In that single instant, I knew. Didn’t decide, just knew as if a light had come on. I am going to California. It took working two restaurant jobs all winter long but in August the following year I did it. I got in the car with no final destination, no plan. I just drove…said, here I go, take it all…
Follow your bliss, Campbell said. Even when it feels dead, or is shadowed by the reality you have to hold opposite of it: the all the time present scholastic responsibilities, the tension of that, of living on an intern’s paycheck and student loans, of being far away from family and friends, of not knowing anymore your own definition of home, of being willing to just hold that. It’s easy to forget that from the big picture, it all somehow makes better sense.
Which is why I had to laugh some more, shake my head. The song that played after me on the iPod? It was the same one that a group of dudes on bikes were playing out of a boombox in a basket my very first night here in California. With Wallace in Newport Beach, riding bikes to eat sushi.
I don’t know where I’m headed. That happens so much more than I want. But sometimes I get reminded to be willing to trust that I’m on my way.