Last night I chased our resident frog around the courtyard. I didn’t mean to, but I surprised him on his evening rounds, and I’m sure it seemed like I was following him, the crazy woman with the hose. I like to water earlier, but sometimes I just run out of daylight. Then I miss seeing the bursting colors of the nasturtiums, or the new shoots on the fan palm starts I brought from our Avenida Ortega home, kin to our huge beloved tree there. And I don’t get to enjoy it in the same way after everything is clean and wet, sitting outside in the midst of it all, soaking it all up, relieved and expanded like the garden itself. I always feel a little silly out there watering in the dark, but I can manage because the courtyard is small and light spills from the windows. It was just enough to let me glimpse our frog hopping out of my path. I was afraid I was terrorizing him. By the time I’d worked my way to the front, I could see he’d circled back around to the shed. So, I thought, he wasn’t too afraid after all, or he would have gone into hiding. Maybe he understood my apologies. Or maybe the wet yard was irresistible. I wonder now if I’ll need to make a point of watering more often at night. It must be frog heaven. When I was done, I found him sitting on my cat sculpture underneath the Palo Verde, nestled up against her neck. I left the two of them resting there together, companions in the wet dark.
The eastern sky is washed in dark pink, our version of a sunset here, so near the San Jacintos. The clouds stretch north, too, as far as I can see on tiptoe. I am weeding the driveway, but I stop to look. There are two of the huge round kind I have only seen in these skies, big puffy smooshed almost-spirals that look like spaceships. The pink pales, and I go back to pulling weeds until the twilight plays tricks on my eyes. Later I remember I have left my shears sitting in the gravel. When I go back out to get them, I see the new crescent moon beside Venus in the west, a hands breadth above the mountains. I stand still, the dangling shears a weight pulling on my arm, my lips parted. They are surprising and bright above the darkening ridge. Back inside, I grab my laptop to do more work. I am carrying it to the living room when I have the impulse to look for them again. I bend my knees to peer out through the 4-inch slit of open window in my front door. They are still there, shining now through the silhouettes of the Palo Verde branches. I am like a little kid, scrunched down, nose pressed up against the screen. I stand there in the narrow hallway, giddy, computer clutched against my chest, watching the two of them for a long time, magic beings in the night sky.
Thursday morning there is the barest touch of chill to the air. I change my T-shirt for the long-sleeved pink top Mami bought me, the one with the psychedelic swirl of words on the front that she and Auntie Gardi have, too. Mine has big holes at the wrists, and I know I will have to take it off again in less than an hour. But I slide my arms into it, loving its soft suppleness, the pleasure of the fabric covering me against the momentary cold. I am guessing this may be the last time I get to wear it. It is an odd thing, this living in the desert, this craving for cold when the rest of our hemisphere is yearning after warmth. But I am not ready for this to be the last time yet, the last time I pull on a long-sleeved top, the beginning of half a year or more of heat. I count on my fingers, eight months of it if this is truly the last cool morning. (Banish the thought.) I want to stave off summer as long as I can. I relish the cool air through the open sliding glass door. There are big dark polka dots on the pavement, evidence of an attempt to rain before I woke. I sit propped up in bed to write, cozy now in my soft pink shirt. I can smell that first rain smell, moist dirt and concrete. Black clouds hug the San Jacintos, and I hear mockingbirds in the distance, a scattered quartet. I breathe in the new rain smell and smile at our good fortune. Maybe today will be a rare gray day.
I make a point of entering my work in writing contests. I’ve been doing it for about four years now. One of my pieces won a small local contest, and most of them have now been finalists here and there. Each time, it heartens me, makes me hopeful. At first I entered almost every contest I came across. Over the years I have narrowed things down some. I tend to not enter the very expensive ones, for instance. And I try to re-enter the ones where people have liked my work in the past. Some contests seem more far fetched than others, but for some reason they appeal to me, so I keep entering them. Fish is one I’d put in that category. I think maybe once a good bit of time ago one of my pieces made it to their longlist, but I don’t remember the details. I don’t remember feeling encouraged by that. (I think it was a very long longlist.) The other day when I was looking over something contest-related, I wondered if I should stop submitting to them. After searching through their lists for my name so many times and not finding it, I was discouraged. And they always had a gazillion entries. I think without admitting it to myself I was wondering if the competition was too stiff, if maybe my work wasn’t good enough. Yesterday when I got their email announcing the winners of their 2014/15 Fish Short Story Prize, I started scrolling through their shortlist with zero expectations of finding my name. (They present the lists in alphabetical order by the writers’ first names.) But I got to the Rs, and there I was–not only listed, but listed twice. Both of the short stories I entered made the shortlist. Out of 1575 submissions, my two pieces were among 103 that were shortlisted. I can’t believe they both made it there. It still makes me grin, remembering what a sweet surprise it was to see my name and the two titles. I just wanted to let you know, my faithful readers. I am feeling encouraged now. And grateful, too. If Fish has shortlisted them, then who knows what might happen next.
The mockingbirds seem to be celebrating the equinox today, marking this turning of the world. I have heard them singing day and night, more of them than I can ever remember. So, I think they must be heralding in this changing time. Yesterday I walked beside the creek bed with Audrey and Bear. I left them near the bridge and walked back along the path in the late dusk. The big frog choir starting up held all my attention, unconscious of my head cocked toward them as I walked. And I could hear a large gathering of birds beginning to roost in big bushy trees on the other side of the wash, their high-pitched calls coming across to me in waves as they settled in for the night. But when I left the path, it was the mockingbird songs that followed me home through the neighborhoods. They sang from the fan palm to the east, the telephone pole behind me. And when I was almost home a mockingbird was singing across the street in the tree whose name I do not know but whose smell takes me back to childhood. I felt the warm silky air against my calves, my face. This would be summer weather, I thought, almost anywhere else in the world. But here we have a chorus line of deep-voiced frogs and spiky ocotillos blooming red and the bursting of yellow Palo Verde blossoms everywhere you look. We have warm night air and mockingbirds singing their hearts out in the almost dark. Here we are in the throes of late, late spring. Happy vernal equinox. Happy solar new year, everyone.
In a dream a woman is walking down the street, heading south. We are in a foreign city. The homes and stores share a common wall along a narrow sidewalk where I stand watching her go. Mexico, maybe, or Italy. Greece. I begin to yell. “You—” I want to scream obscenities at her back. I stop myself. “You are—” I stop again. “Unkind,” I say at last, the word crisp inside my mouth, the taste of charred paper. Then I shout, “I love you.” She stops. She doesn’t turn around but looks over her shoulder. She scowls, annoyed. Conflicted, maybe. Impatient.
“Thank you,” she says. And then she walks away.
In more recent months, I stumbled upon a healer who practices the laying on of stones combined with her own version of energy. She names it quantum healing. It was the same experience I had with Lisa, the angel intuitive. I remember standing in the back room of the store, the art gallery where the healers often work, getting a feel for the three women working there that late September day. They were each working on someone, and again it was Adrienne’s energy that drew me. I chose her. And I was never sorry. It is a vulnerable act, an act of faith, to put yourself on the table in another’s hands. But I trusted her. She helped to bring me back from the last terrible summer months. She told me I had a chance to heal now at a deeper level, and being me, I felt like she was saying I should be doing something I wasn’t. She was patient with me, with my weird defensiveness. “Well, if you’re driving, and you get to an intersection in the road, it’s only then that you can turn left or right,” she said. “You can’t do it before you get there.” I believe it was my work with her that helped me find that full moon healing in December, the shedding of that old, heavy cloak. I went back to see her later that month, eager to hear what kind of progress she might see in me after having had that experience. But she was gone. And I know I have to trust the universe in this. I have to believe those three visits are what I was meant to have with her, and now they’re over. But I can’t help but wonder why. Could I not have kept Adrienne and Lisa a bit longer in my life, companions on this journey? Is it selfish of me to wish I could be buoyed longer than these brief bits of time? I can’t help but ask, is it something in me that makes this happen, that makes them go away? And the thought that comes is this. Maybe it is only to prevent me from becoming too dependent on them. Maybe it is the universe telling me to trust myself.