Thursday, October 8, 2015


Relaxation does not necessarily lead to writing. Sinking into silence and long, deep sleeps is a delicious end in itself with little desire or need to document. But then, again, now there is a little time for reflection.

I wrote this on the airplane: 


So somewhere over the middle of America, listening to Jurassic World because there is no picture for some reason. I must confess I have quite a soft spot for Chris Pratt. I was exhausted nearly to weeping when I got on the plane, but I am trying to stay awake so that I get onto East Coast time much more quickly. Although I don’t much like all the explosions and violence, I can hear the most upset baby I have ever seen on a ‘plane even through all of this ruckus. The VFX look awful on this low rez screen, but I am enjoying this. There are some good actors in this besides Chris Pratt, although I don’t really get Bryce Dallas Howard.

I went into some kind of coma yesterday, stress, anxiety, fear? The HGTV show Fixer-Upper sucked me in for about three hours and then I didn’t want to do much of anything. So, as per usual, I did not get done everything I had hoped, but some. Leaving my mom and Cooder was very difficult, not really knowing how (or if) either one would be when I return.

I took Cooder to the vet last week, maybe I said in my last post. I am very happy with my new vet out here … and isn’t it interesting that most of my favorite vets have been women? … Cooder has an infected tooth that should come out, but at her advanced age and diminishing kidney function, she might not survive the surgery. She’s on antibiotics and some pain medication. Her liveliness and appetite have improved, but she is still on beyond finicky it is difficult to get her fed. She’s mostly skin and bones. The vet thinks has six more months or so in her. I am a bit sad to think I am missing these weeks with her.

And my mom is another story. Last night, driving down Painter Boulevard in Whitter she spoke of how sad she was to think she wouldn’t be here much longer. The medications for depression and memory retention don't seem to be working. She's not feeling great. I called her doctor before I left to see about adjusting her medications, but I didn't get a call back, so that will be something else I manage from the field.

So, to update you from there, Ma saw a neurologist on Monday who attributes her memory loss to imbalance of sodium, potassium, cholesterol, and blood pressure. That's something, right? My nurse brother will be in town on Monday, so they will go to her gerontologist together. 

I've been enjoying solitude at J&J's sweet place in Woodstock. Lili & Stuart's is just about a 10 or 15 minute drive away.


An hour is not a house,
a life is not a house,
you do not go through them as if
they were doors to another.

Yet an hour can have shape and proportion,
four walls, a ceiling.
An hour can be dropped like a glass.

Some want quiet as others want bread.
Some want sleep.

My eyes went
to the window, as a cat or dog left alone does.

—  Jane Hirschfield, The Beauty

Thursday, October 1, 2015


I was up earlier than usual this morning, likely because I was asleep earlier with less than the usual amount of imbibition in my system. I couldn’t even get through 30 minutes of The Count of Monte Cristo, opting for a Planet Money podcast (don’t even remember the subject now). The sun comes through the living room and dining room window so brightly as if there are floodlights aimed at them. After preparing my morning cup of hot water and honey, I ambled out to the garden to see how the plants are doing. That’s when I saw …

… Bird butt. Certainly I have observed birds on a wire before but never before have I watched them balance. I just thought they, you know, plopped down and hung out. But no. Here was still another minor thing, yet major thing, I had failed to notice; birds have to work pretty hard to perch on those wires. They are in subtle yet constant motion. There’s a lesson in this observation, methinks, but it hasn’t come to me yet.

I brought the laptop out to the gardening bench. The morning is pretty quiet save for the occasional airplane cruizing by. And the river of freeway traffic, which by this time is not too loud as the drivers are crawling and cussing at this hour. By the hacking cough, I can hear that my Mom has stumbled out of bed. 


This past weekend, my dear homie Peter came over to help clean up the breezeway and hang the outdoor drapes. My mother, who had been utterly disinterested in my plans to hang drapes to replace the ratty, falling-apart-shades actually stopped chattering and gasped when she saw what we had done.

My brother called last night to say that he had gone to see his doctor and he is doing well. There was some concern that he had emphysema, as well, but that has been allayed. I didn't actually speak to him, and my mother forgets things very rapidly. 

I was a bit saddened and alarmed when she came into my room last night to ask if Panera made tomato soup. Panera's tomato soup is one of her absolute favorite things (right along with Sees Candy). Her gerontologist diagnosed her with major depression, which was a bit of a relief to me as that condition is at least treatable, if not reversible. But it does take time, and, so far, I haven't seen much of an improvement. She's much better if she exercises and if I get her out of the house. Company makes all the difference.

We drove up to North to see my brother in the hospital last two weeks ago. We got up early,   hoping to beat the traffic through LA (not much luck there). We drove up Highway 1 as we were in no particular hurry and I reasoned that my mom wasn't going to see Big Sur too many more times in her life. 

I particularly like the photobombing lady, who was offering to help us.

She utterly loved it. And while we were on our trip, she didn't nap, or not significantly, whereas here, she naps every two hours or so. As soon as we got back, she started feeling weird again. 

I need to get on with the day before it gets too hot. I only have three days to get things done before I head for NY.  And wouldn't you know it, there's a tropical storm that might impede my outgoing trip. On the brighter side, that likely means good weather for the Memorial on the 10th.


When Sisyphus was pushing the stone up the mountain,
Always near the top
As you remember, at the very tip of the height,
It lapsed and fell back upon him,
And he rolled to the bottom of the incline, exhausted.

Then he got up and pushed up the stone again,
First over the grassy rise, then the declivity of Dead Man's Gulch,
Then the outcroppings halfway, at which he took breath,
Looking out over the rosy panorama of Helicon;
Then finally the top

Where the stone wobbled, trembled, and lapsed back upon him,
And he rolled again down the whole long incline.
He said a man's reach must exceed his grasp,
Or what is Hades for?

He said it's not the goal that matters but the process
Of reaching it, the breathing joy
Of endeavor, and the labor along the way.
This belief damned him, and damned, what's harder,
The heavy stone.

— Josephine Miles, The New Yorker Book of Poems, Viking, 1969

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Overwhelmed is what I am and that which accounts for my silence, although I am most chatty towards you in my head. Finding a place to wade back into writing is a challenge. But I miss writing; it’s a way I can stay me and, at the moment, that is a struggle. (More on this later.)

So here is one major stream.

Two weeks ago, one of my brothers had a massive heart attack, klaxxoned to the hospital, had to be paddled back to life, and was then rushed to emergency quadruple bypass surgery. The surgeon wanted to operate at 11:00pm as my brother was in danger of another major heart attack. Only when he was being wheeled into surgery did he allow my sister-in-law to telephone us. At the time she called, late at night, I was sitting at my desk in near tears, struggling with my mother’s rapid mental deterioration. I stunnédly stumbled into bed wondering if my brother would survive the surgery. He did.

I have so much to do that I just melt into mindlessness, like staying up until 1:00am to watch HGTV flip and renovate house shows. Even reading seems like a chore, although that does not prevent me from dreaming and planning to read. I am listening to The Count of Monte Cristo as an audiobook. Great fun for the most part and it does help me to relax and sleep.

On Sunday, I fly to New York for three weeks. There is much apprehension there, … always the “what will I wear” conundrum. However, what will I return to? A much more diminished mother? Will Cooder survive my absence? Will the goddamned spider mites ruin my new tomato plants?

This post is barely adequate but I have been desperate to write.


He comes to report himself
A missing person.

The authorities
Hand him the form.

He knows how they have waited
With the learned patience of barbers

In small shops, idle,
Stropping their razors.

But now that these spaces in his life
Stare up at him blankly,

Waiting to be filled in,
He does not know where to begin.

That he cannot answer even

To a description of himself,
He asks for a mirror.

They reassure him
That he can be nowhere

But wherever he finds himself
From moment to moment,

Which, for the moment, is here.
And he might like to believe them,

But in the mirror
He sees what is missing.

It is himself
He sees there emerging

Slowly,  as from the dark
Of a furnished room,

Only when it is dark,
One who receives no mail

And is known to the landlady only
For keeping himself to himself,

And for whom it will be years yet
Before he can trust to the light

This last disguise, himself.

— Donald Justice, The New Yorker Book of Poems