Fire (10)

It happened in the middle of the night. I was asleep, then half aware of too many sounds. Popping noises. Firecrackers? Drunks breaking bottles? I pulled myself out of sleep, turning in the room to orient myself, my ears and brain trying to make sense of things. The adrenaline rush left me trembling almost before I knew what I was looking at. There was a wall of fire to the east, trees gobbled up as I watched. There were snaps and pops and people, not voices I don’t think but the sense of movement, of activity, maybe a shout here and there without words. Now I wonder if really what I heard was mostly just the hiss of the fire, the roaring of the beast. I couldn’t tell how close it was, somehow managed to function in spite of the adrenaline flooding my brain with stupid. Passport, cat carriers, shoes. I cried when I found George, knew he and Bentley were okay. The fire department was fast. No one was hurt. Not physically. Emotions, minds, psyches must be a different story. I was at a distance, one short crow-flying block away, my home kept safe. But I can still see that tower of flame and smoke out the living room window. For days the image was painted inside me, a movie streaming across the horizon at an old drive-in theater, lighting up the sky.

Too Hard on Yourself? (9)

My friend’s voice on the phone is quiet. “I wonder if you might be too hard on yourself?” she says. I’ve just admitted my recent sloth and debauchery, my recurring impossible transition from the end of the academic year to the summer. Her voice is all whispery and kind, as though I am a horse who might spook, the words an answer to prayer, I think later. (I have asked for gentle lessons.) I know I am too hard on myself. I gauge my efforts harshly, often fall short. But something in her voice makes me think my friend is talking instead about what I ask of myself, what gets put on the list to work toward to begin with. How do we decide where to aim? How do we know if we’re asking too much of ourselves? I plan to take it slow, this putting back on of my list of expectations. I want to let myself slip into it like a well worn sweater, or soft shoes, nicely broken in. But I am thinking I may not want to don the list again in its entirety. Maybe I will cut off the sleeves, wear new orange socks. Maybe I’ll just go to Stein Mart and poke around a bit.

More Night Music (8)

When I was walking home along the creek path the other evening, I heard a mockingbird. I stopped to listen, arms limp at my sides, my back to the creek bed. I could hear him singing behind the row of houses there. I was surprised to hear another bird pick up when he stopped, singing now from a little further away, and then a third one, quieter yet. Last night I heard this happen nearer our home. I have always thought of one mockingbird, a lone voice in the middle of the night or in the early dawn. But these birds were in this together. Their songs sounded joyful, musicians playing, improvising, meeting in that place where music goes, where music takes us, each connecting in those spaces. I think of that unexpected bird symphony now when I get ready to head out into the early dusk hoping for a little more night music.

I Didn’t Win

Hi everyone. I found out this morning I didn’t win the book contest. I am sad but okay. I have been telling myself whoever wins will be the one meant to win in this round. And looking at the winner’s photo on the New Rivers Press Facebook page, I felt good seeing her, knowing this was her time to win. Maybe one day it will be my time. :)

Writing Prompt (7)

Write about what stirs you. What stirs me? I like making big pots of soup. I stir them with a wooden spoon. But when I want to taste them I dig a big metal soupspoon out of the drawer. The texture and the flavor of the wood interfere. I like stirring soup. It stirs me to smell it, to imagine sitting down to a big bowl of it, the hot ceramic cradled against my belly when I lean back on the couch or the bed, my kitchen towel napkin draped across my torso as though I’m preparing to eat lobster. What stirs me? Taste, color, texture, the exquisite beauty of our natural world, the craggy rocks on our mountains on a clear day that make you want to rub your hand across them, feel the ragged edges of the ridge. I am stirred by little things. My father gave me this, I think. I can be stirred to awe, stirred to pity, stirred to anger, excitement, gratitude. I am stirred when people take the time to reassure me, stirred by their kindness in that act, their generosity. I am stirred by injustice, by empathy. I’ve always rooted for the underdog. I hated the roadrunner cartoons when I was a little girl. I always felt bad for the coyote.

May Music (6)

“I’d count myself lucky,” I said to her, or something like that. Was I snippy? Too harsh? I can’t remember, but I know there was a stiffness in me when I spoke, and I’m pretty sure I sounded critical. I was judging her because I couldn’t understand how having a mockingbird singing outside your window would be reason to lament, even in the middle of the night. “I’d count myself lucky,” I said. And I’ve been lucky in the last few weeks. There’s one who comes now to the electrical pole not far from the window by my bed. He sings from his perch there during the day, but it’s the late night hours I find the most enchanting. It reminds me of living in Santa Rosa years ago, not many months after I first learned who the mockingbird is. One would come to the tree outside my bedroom window and serenade our quiet neighborhood in the middle of the summer nights. It always felt like a dream, like magic, a holy visit. Now when I hear our Palm Springs mockingbird singing when the rest of the world is silent, that same sense of enchantment comes over me. I relish his song while I lie in bed, the way I savor the sound of raindrops on the roof, sometimes only half waking in the dark, like a lullaby, sending me deeper into dreams. The late night singing feeds me freesias and night-blooming jasmine, fresh sea air and moonlight on water. It feeds me stars and the night sky, the scent of moist dirt rising. Not once have I wanted to stop his singing, only to be able to keep listening, keep soaking it up like the dry earth soaks up rain. The mockingbird’s song is a dance, a celebration, an invitation to take wing. My heart soars with his cadence, and I slide back into sleep.