Come take a walk over to my other blogspot for today’s post about “the eyes have it.”
Come take a walk over to my other blogspot for today’s post about “the eyes have it.”
I shed my skin slowly.
But I discard it nevertheless.
For it serves no longer any purpose.
I change my clothes.
And no one sees me new.
Yet I emerge from the dressing door clothed.
Different shoes than when I went in.
“I wanted to grow into a tree when I was five because the trees around my house looked like they all had arms that reached to the sky or really high places like rooftops, and my arms were so short I could not even reach the counter to steal back contraband my mom confiscated: cookies, silly putty my brother and I fought over, and fake clip-on earrings snuck from my mother’s jewelry box.”
I stare at her perfectly halved hard boiled egg chin as she speaks, mesmerized by its perfect oval shape.
“The Wizard of Oz kinds of trees all bramble and sparsely leafed. Not because they moved or were threatening but because they looked like outstretched arms. I wanted arms to heaven.”
I laugh. “Sounds like you’re going to break into song or start a book Elizabeth Gilbert might write. You know transformation…arms to the heavens…that sort of thing.”
“No, I’m serious,” she counters. “I wanted to grow up to be a tree, a coffee tree. That’s what they were in my mind, for some strange reason. I have no idea what a coffee tree is, but that’s what they were. And for the longest time I could not shake that dream, had literal dreams of being a tree like some Greek goddess. Who was it, Diana? No, Daphne, escaping Apollo, only I wasn’t running from anyone into tree hood. It felt natural, like I would evolve organically into a tree, starting with my fingertips elongating into thin spikes with wispy leaves drooping from the tiniest reaches of the branches that my arms would become. I could almost feel it then…even now, a little. I can summon up that feeling.”
“How curious, specific and lovely,” I silently acknowledged. “I wish I had imagined that as a five year old. But I was too busy wondering if God could wipe out nightmares for me or if I could somehow fly without wings or nun’s habits like the flying nun did.”
When the leaves blow
and coffee spills, cup atilt,
slosh goggle floored, splayed
legs out wide like a downed
ballerina, stunningly embarrassed,
pictures hang askew, traffic piles
up, coincidental clash meetings
arise, and all goes awry, topsy
spinning turvy, electrified.
But if you plant your feet firmly,
tilt your head just so, right the
angle (forget the level and the
plumb), bend to slanting, twist
around dead center, steady and
strong, new perspective threatens
comfort yet tickles a notion clear–
if you let the turning in–
that all you held confirmed,
earth bound solid, statically
removed, churns, burns and grinds
a new plateau, status quo evenly
spread, awaiting dissipation and
No doubt music marks our days, sometimes quick phases, oftentimes longer, a decade or a lifetime. Bowie marks a near lifetime for me. Not too many artists have kept me listening as I pass through the decades with morphing styles and tastes befitting the ages, mine and the world’s.
I first heard Bowie in late 75, Ziggy Stardust most prominently but all of his early albums. I remember his young scratchy nasal voice (“Oh cacti find a home…”) that blossomed into that deep sonorous sometimes bass trilled at the edges full of flair and drama. My sister adored him and played his albums continuously in the basement room we shared back in Long Island. And when she slipped off the edge a bit, Bowie seeped into her paranoid delusions. She saw prophecy in him. Even in her mania, she appeared to capture the essence of him–enigmatic and forging.
We saw him, my sister and I, in the late 70’s, maybe early 80’s, if my poor memory serves me (and it rarely does), at the Forum in LA during the Low tour (or maybe the early 80’s Serious Moonlight tour–or both). He had already abandoned Ziggy and the thin white duke by then. I remember feeling nostalgic every year or two when he changed his style yet again, transformed into someone else, some other alien, sliding into the latest (industrial/Eno influenced) or setting the trend himself (Ziggy).
Some might characterize him as a chameleon or a dragon of sorts with his commanding fire burning everyone and everything up in frenzied delight or disintegrated fury if you read the stories of his professional and personal life, a long list of gone-throughs. But there is no doubt that the music world has been much influenced like a meteor scar on the earth, the crater of his prolific creative output over several media–music, art, film, drama–ever communing with the stars he brought our eyes to time and again.
Up to his probable scripted death by the seemingly indomitable cancer yesterday, he was in charge. He made the trends, first had us look gender fluidity in the eyes on such a grand scale. And glam rock, I believe, would not have come to the fore with its serious spark without him (okay Queen was pretty cool too).
Of course I am no music historian nor critic, just a listener, appreciator and star gazer. But as a fan, I know I will sorely miss the years’ passings without a Bowie change-up around the corner (just when you think he’s resting comfortably…). He seems to have synchronized my days, kept me abreast of the new, the old-new, the new-new and the new-old. But just as I said it as I watched his Lazarus video from his just-released BlackStar, “amazing”, as I’ve exclaimed it so many times before when he sent chills down my spine with some profound lyric, performance and/or song.
Peace, bro. I will miss the latest and greatest you sorely.
Spoke a spiritual self,
and my world swelled
my head full visions of life
intent on living with intention;
realities and modalities flickered
like moths worshipping tensile light
before me like a card bridge in mid-shuffle
soon folding in flattened before the game begins.
Observation and witness transforms without elimination.
Pure illumination: Intend first and the rest unfolds manifest.
Emerging from the mountain forests, Dunsmuir.
A few hours’ sleep at a rest stop north of Eugene and we rise early to greet the day bleary-eyed. Hard travel brings back the days of recent college graduate pals taking a road trip across country on $300.00, Michael Jackson’s Thriller playing on cassette the whole way. It was the 80s.
Passing through Redding, CA, I thought of you Holly and wondered how you fare. I saw your telephone listing for a massage therapist in the Redding White Pages a long time ago, which has not changed–no email address, no Facebook or Twitter listing. Maybe you no longer exist except in a journey I dreamed.
That trip marked me, the wonder and adventure of freedom: two young girls setting off to see beauty up and down the west coast and across the Rockies to DC where Holly’s pastry chef boyfriend awaited and our fabulous meal at the Watergate Hotel with chef Jean Louis pulling out the culinary stops to impress him. Best meal of my life up til then (not hard given my humble beginnings). The VolksWagen bug Don had us drive, the one built by a friend, gave us hell, but I would not have it any other way. That VW thematizes the adventures and misadventures of youth without plans or time to savor–just doing.
We laughed getting high and chasing deer in the Rockies until Holly got altitude sickness and I was tasked to figure out how I was going to get her out of the field and back to the car. I was so thin then, her too, which was unusual for her. She tended toward the thick. Her green eyes were fierce cat eyes, her brows perpetually shaped in perfect arches, a gift of her mother’s singing praises of electrolysis.
I still see her putting on lipstick, covering the thin bottom lip and then using that lip to coat the nearly non-existent upper lip. I watched that so many times. I coat my lips the same way, when I wear lipstick, which is not often. And I think of her doing that each time. Amazing how time sticks to the bones of memory, especially from youth. I recall reading that those early incipient memories recall to mind the clearest due to their being memory-etching first-timers, before much clutter dulls a mind to narrowing newness.
The green of Holly’s eyes are unmatched to the green everywhere outside Southern California, which refreshes always. Flying into LAX continually reminds me that I live on a desert, brown and brimming in short scrubby smatterings of life thrust. The effusion of greenery near Portland contrasts starkly. Of course the cloudy skies also remind me of why.
We search for breakfast. Driver’s choice so I prepare myself for sweet, blanched flour French fine pastry.
I have married my father, someone always looking for the next meal, the gourmand’s preoccupation. Only my father feasts at the other end of the culinary spectrum: Burger King hamburgers and fries.
The Columbia River pours by in majestic pines, thick lush Douglas fir lined highways guided magisterially by the Cascade mountain range overlooking its charges. Keep green. Between the Dalles and Hood River, the sun bathes the trees, big leaf maples, Ponderosa pine, cottonwood and Oregon white oak, green glossy frost. The heaviness of the dense foliage leans in to the road with a threatening call.
Crossing Bonneville dam, the daisies line the road spotty white among the tall wheatland grass and Western hemlock. Mountain crags, humps of black rock jutting through the pines decorating its crown like liberty, pop from nowhwere. Stone walls line a country road nearing the cobblestone bridge. And the clouds hover and stare.
Deforestation scars the mountain tops, golden grass exposed through the sparse trees, soldiers left standing in the war against industry, disrespect for the land, chunks of the grab gone for timber. Small vineyards orderly tucked behind a hill also pen the hand of man on nature’s back.
Hairy rocks, like my old man’s shoulders. What grows there on the spiny rocks fungus stained hard knocks of geological story?
4 hours outside Spokane.
The four hour rest at the truck stop outside of Eugene refreshed what little remains of our spunk and patience. Traveling with two teens and their corny-humored father wears the patience of even saints. I am no saint. I am not remotely patient.
The mugs and the fire burnished hills, repaired by time and patience, sprigs determined to fulfill their seeded destinies.
The Columbia Gorge, a myriad of textures and vertical measures, scrubbed to ethereal.
A huge expanse of farmland and chaparral heading east to Spokane peppered with silos and green houses on near barren landscapes under a great polka dot open sky. The clouds form cotton balls. Water sprinklers look like sin here in a drought. Perhaps Oregon has forgotten our drought. California certainly has not. Water will drive the next world or civil war, I am reminded.
The hills are dusted with aqueous green scrub, mid-high interspersed with deep forest greens and kelly greens, hunter and sage too. The nature paint protrays delightful. Somehow I think artifical irrigation is the cause.
Umatilla Irrigon region.
And she is gone. Her sister will wean her these two weeks before returning as the lone twin of upstairs living.
He complains of the enormity of it, the lack of planning, the endless driving non-stop, sleepless roadside napping round the clock and the expense of renting a van with its out of state costs, yet the real vastness of disbelief is in her leaving. While nothing is ever permanent and kids go off to college and come back, live back at home, the leaving and living on her own is an indelible shift forever away from the cocoon years that stretched from conception to that first departure.
She has left her childhood behind for good as the step back in will always be from a distance, a retrospect. Like unringing a bell, she cannot ever live the purity of those flexed years of growing up seamless from birth to first steps, first walking away to another’s hands in school, first kisses, first heartbreaks, and first flights of freedom. Thoughts of self, identity and independence color a life once only colored in coloring books, backyard swimming pools, trips to the candy store or tear-stained shoe box coffins for small beloved hamsters named Hammie.
No, your beef, man, is not with us, our slap dash, rag tag impromptu impossible road trip, the one with endless miles of road bearing insights among the natural sights and blights of countryside and cityscapes of the northwest, sorely needed respite from the daily doldrums of grinding work hours and spatial deprivation you also complain about as likely to kill you.
And here we are speaking lightly of the shame of it all, the clear cutting demoralizing the Oregon hills along the Columbia, deforestation in the Amazon rain forest and water wasted on the open expanses of thirsty crops along the Washington thoroughfare while our first born worries about being good enough to last, to make it under the pressure of intense competition and her own perceived weaknesses.
But I caught a glimpse of wince in you yesterday, the pinched frown of devastating knowledge held in check–but not enough. Despair leaked from your downward cast lower lip and fallen eyes, a momentary slip of the heart spill.
“Yeah, it’s just Jordyn leaving.”
And we each look to our respective windows for escape into the landscape upon which we hurl our pain masked in observation, a costume of the fearful. Tears haunt us. Afraid to unleash the avalanche of suffocating cold loneliness threatening to smother us.
Oxford English Online Dictionary defines courage as follows:
The ability to do something that frightens one, or Strength in the face of pain or grief.
Some people in social media today are bitching about the public’s lauding Caitlyn Jenner (when they are not commenting on her age or her dress or her makeup) for her “bravery.”
Even people I have deemed intelligent and sensitive have posted Facebook critiques with photos of their candidates for the definition of bravery such as this:
And yet another post-er believes this is more befitting of the adjective:
Both social media post-ers are men, one conservative and one progressive, one older (mid-fifties) and one younger (mid-thirties). See a trend here?
To be brave, one must risk life and limb or recover from loss of life (the one before loss of limbs) and limb(s). And be men.
Now, admittedly, I have seen no female contributors to the courage definition, none with a picture to share, but if there were any, I would imagine it would be of cancer survivors or mothers crossing minefields to save their babies.
But the first reason for Caitlyn’s doubtful courage is her womanhood. The second reason is her health. It is apparently not bravery to kill off her fortunate birthright–the white male privilege–to become a woman whose worth is measured by her appearance and her ability to graciously absorb the arrows of disdain and second class citizenry based on frippery and gossip, like the target she has now become. And for what? It’s not like she needed the money or the publicity like her former step family.
What’s so brave about that? I agree. She must be a masochist to become a woman in this society–to be treated like meat.
But Jon Stewart in his latest The Daily Show always says it best:
As a woman, Jenner can now look forward to her physical appearance, not her talents or mind, being the object of daily scrutiny. Should she ever need to work, she can look forward to earning roughly 77% of what a man makes. Should she ever face physical or sexual violence, she, not her attacker, will be treated with suspicion. As a woman, Jenner will also have to get used to hearing not just new pronouns but other fun words like “shrill,” “nagging,” “bossy” and “emotional.” And then, of course, there’s the catcalling, which a “beautiful” woman like Jenner can now expect daily.
A person transitioning to live as her true self is a wonderful thing and America has come a long way toward accepting transgender people. As Stewart so aptly pointed out, though, the real struggle now is to bring up the lives of all women. On that front, there are still miles to go.
Perhaps the clichés we are fed about hero imagery and the hardship stories that go viral to tug at our heart strings in quiet, reverential sentimentality get in the way of our seeing the bravery of transformation, being faithful to the universal need to be our authentic selves even in the face of total annihilation through either vilification or idolotry.
Caitlyn Jenner may be just a woman now, but her twice-baked celebrity-dom has transformed her into a paper doll image, something to wag about as a projection of an idea, sans flesh and blood, no matter how much skin gets bared where.
And I am not disputing the other photos depict bravery, though they are subject to the same fate as Caitlyn–the loss of humanity to an idea of something like heroism or bravery or Facebook likes.
The take home idea: Why would anyone want to be a woman in a misogynist society?