Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicken feathers, bats, and polar bears

      How close do we live to nature or the natural world?  For urban dwellers, unless we live with pets (or dare I say, children), not very.  Yesterday when I got a haircut I came home with a feather attached to my hair, a chicken feather, dyed in different shades of ginger (hairdresser's description). beige, and black, but a humanely obtained, chicken feather.  The feather makes me happy as if I had earned a feather in a traditional culture.  The earliest forms of adornment were objects such as these and these objects made us feel part of the world around. Years ago, in the middle of a rolfing session, I saw a flash of a polar bear along with my grandmother and I thought, this is my totem animal, if such a thing is possible.  So in honor of all life, and for the baby chicks that are coming to Cold Springs Urban Farm, I am wearing a feather proudly.

Here's a poem about a beautiful place in Colombia:
Santa Fe de Antioquia

The smell of decaying fruit hangs
in the hot sun,
A green as strong
I´d never seen
in years of temperate moderation.

Ceilings beyond reach
in a room very old,
matching the inhabitants
busily fashioning
caskets out of wood,
the family trade.

Neatly stacking them
just beyond the bedroom
where I sleep in coolness,
for babies, tiny and white,
for adults several wait.

This night double church bells
announce another loss.
Bats flutter, then
rest flat
            blotting out
            paradise in palm trees.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beaches- Barcelona, Buffalo, and Beyond

Going to the beach in Barcelona often meant going to a nude beach with nothing titilating about it, just a glimpse into the variety of human shapes and forms.  This served as an important antidote to the airbrushed and anemic images that constitute bodies these days.  The beach was also a busy place with vendors hawking beer, coke, or water up and more importantly, if it was July or August, more people than you thought possible, squeezed onto the sticky sand.
Buffalo- in my previous life in the US, I went to the beach in Canada but now with border headaches and long bridge waits, I discovered local beaches.  Woodlawn is a park with a boardwalk leading through a forest to the beach, creating one of the weirdest beach scenes I've ever experienced- hawks circling.  I imagined following them to a path in the woods where I'd discover a body hidden under a tree. Could be the start of another story. 
Of course there is no nudity here- even little girls wear tops.  In Europe they get away with just bottoms, as do their mothers.  No vendors, no huge crowds - I can see cultural differences; African American families come dressed fashionably and everyone in a certain age range sports tatoos.  
A beach is still pleasure wherever it is.  Other beaches flash by- the South China Sea near Melaka with poisonous snakes and a monkey collecting coconuts, Cartagena with women balancing huge bowls of fruit on their heads, and Jones Beach with crowds, volleyball and the ocean.

I discover such interesting things here (Thanks Pat for this)  Wonderful- painters, photographers and others paint, take pictures, and write about distressed buildings to bring attention to such architectural wonders.

And a poem, for nostalgia:
A Remedy of Touch

            Immediately after testing
            green bamboo for smoothness
            my hands burn,
            Quick, rub dirt on them,
            a passerby shouts.
            Jackfruit, with its flavor
            of mango and banana
            glues my fingers together
            in sweet stickiness.
            Run your fingers
            through your hair,
            urges the vendor.

But each night
            you hold my hand
            tightly across your chest.
            For this there is no remedy.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I talk, therefore I am

I'm an independent person but this has been the longest period of time I've lived alone.  I was in a longterm relationship and before that, roommates and a couple of short lived romances.  Living alone doesn't mean loneliness- I felt that more acutely in my relationships but there is the factor of BEARING WITNESS (as I call it). 
You need someone to bear witness to your life or you might disappear from existance.  I can immediately tell when a friend calls and recounts all the minutiae of the day to me that she has no one to tell.  At work, a fellow teacher interrupted my class to tell me the long details of how her car mirror was clipped in a parking lot. 
My witness is the endless notebooks I fill with precisely this kind of information- incidents at the laundromat, how I felt slighted by a waitress, lists of what I need to do but may never get around to.  It's written down, it really happened, and thus I exist.
     I had the strange experience (on Facebook, of course) of a friend who died but her picture kept popping up even though I had (cruelly, perhaps?) unfriended her.  It was her birthday and wonderful memories were posted on her wall.  Facebook has a function its founders would never have imagined.


Secrets of green grass, backyards
and painted faces.
this California child remembered.
Then, Mediterranean blue,
Barcelona, a new love, captured.

In the streets of the Gothic,
on terraces high,
winding up caracol stairways,
You are present-
in the cool drink of cava,
the waves rolling in
from Badalona beach,
or the rocky view from Montsant.
Too short, this life
but  aprovechada.