At the Bookstore, Dreaming

It’s a cloudy, drizzly Sunday, and there are 30 people in the check-out line at Barnes and Noble. There are 12 in the cafe/caffeine line. I head for the second, mostly because I perused (and occasionally bought) everything in the first line a few weeks ago.

One of those heavy gray days with crows flying about, and the sky so wet that dribbles of moisture keep sliding down the sides of me like a cold bath. It’s dreary, and no one looks quite normal as they hunch this way or that trying to ward off discomfort.

The young girl across from me sits in the cafe section by way of the cash register section, and the belongings that cover her small table and quite a bit of the floor include giftwrap (a roll of gold and a roll of white with gold stars), a furry stuffed cat (orange), a science kit on Climate Control, nine record albums whose titles are sadly just beyond my view, a black purse, Monopoly (with Hello Kitty gracing the box), and two hefty hardcover books. The girl is midway through an even heftier paperback. I like her.

Every person in the cafe is wearing black on at least half of their body, with the exception of one girl wearing pajamas.

I got here just before the crowd. I get here every day just before the crowd, no matter what time I arrive. I’m lucky that way. I love bookstores, probably because they’re filled with minimally comfortable humans making their way in a world that generally includes few and excludes many, most of whom love to read.

I used to read. I pulled back when so many novels suddenly became harder to handle, and indeed happy books seem not to be in style these days. There were decades when I could handle the murders and loss, mostly because there was always a happy enough ending, and of course the good girl or good guy in charge of it all always saved the day. Now just as often, the good guy dies. Realism, they call it. It’s the third Saturday before Christmas. I’m in no mood for murders. Or much realism, for that matter. When I started writing, I devoured books until they began to hurt — when books came too close to reality.

So now I write. Growing up, I had no use for fiction and was all about truth and evolution, or as close as you can get from a carefully selected book chosen at least partially because you liked the cover. I still tiptoe around fiction a bit, but I love the process and the character creation. Those girls live with me always.

I envy the girl with the hefty book and the orange cat. I miss the days when I could read a slightly disturbing book, find the silver lining, and move on with a bit of new understanding enlightening my brain.

Cleaning Day

I’m not sure why I call this “cleaning day” when in fact it’s been 9.2 days of non-stop rip-everything-from-the-closets-the-kitchen-and-any-room-in-my-way-and-strew-it-all-over-the-bed (step 1), sort it (step 2), wash everything in the house (step 3), sort it again because my priority list has changed (step 4), fold the giveaways (dear god, please let there be many) (step 5), hang the keepers (step 6), repeat.

Yeah I’m a keeper kinda girl. I get attached to stuff, and not only the stuff but the memories that tag along. If there’s any sentiment attached, I’m keeping it. I understand that stuff is just stuff, but is it really? Because I have a really long memory.

And now, quite surprisingly, the day has come when it seems I really DON’T need that, and instead I have a sudden gasping urge to throw it all out, and by that I mean carefully consider each piece (can I wriggle into it?), judge the need (gasp), and evaluate the style (just because I wore it with glee in the 70’s doesn’t necessarily mean it’s still swoon-worthy (but of course it is)).

And then there’s the rest of the process. Clothes are one thing — the kitchen is another. Let’s just say there’s no real personal attachment to mixing bowls and platters. If it’s living in my kitchen, it’s not only easier to toss psychologically, but physically. I can cram five dresses into the space reserved for one, but a can’t really smush metal racks together.

But of course even in the kitchen, the place farthest away from my lifelong love affairs, there are must-keeps. Even if I stopped cooking at least a decade ago, I can’t toss the potato masher that my grandmother used throughout her entire life, which was long, or the blue tray that my mom pulled out so often that it’s frayed at every age, the wooden trivet that my dad hand-carved, my son’s inherited porcelain baby dish complete with a water reservoir to keep his pureed sweat potato at just the right temperature, or my daughter’s delightfully hand-scribbled notes to let me know each feeling that passed through her days youthful.

And so it goes. We buy, we use, we become attached. We fall in love with things because they’re so much more than things. They are our lives kept in drawers and used for a lifetime.

Women are a sentimental brood, and I consider it one of our best features.

This one I kept. I have no idea what it is, but it will always hang in my kitchen. Imperfection = beauty.

Short Skirt, No Jacket

On my last night alone before the house fills up again, it seems to be prom night. Or something like that. I only know this because on my late afternoon walk, I notice cars pulling up and parking everywhere near my house, which is an oddity. We live on a small cul-de-sac off of a dead end street street that has only recently made it onto google. So let’s just say that we don’t get many visitors, and those who do venture our way have puzzled expressions and wander off quickly.And suddenly tonight, someone’s having a party — cars literally everywhere — and I’m not invited. I’m slightly uncertain whether I’m sad or happy about that.

And then as I turn the corner and realize the size of the mounting car count, I see a young girl climb out from behind the driver’s seat. She has perfect blonde hair and a glittery dress, but it’s the length, or lack thereof, that tells me it must be homecoming, and that one of my neighbors is graciously hosting the pre-party so the girls aren’t left to their own devices. No jacket. The other three girls emerge a bit more slowly, carrying that little bubble of excitement/anxiety that changes your life.

I keep walking.

As I reach to the end of the street, I see another car, this one with a few boys tumbling out, trying to wrangle their fancy clothes onto their less adept bodies. They look way less confident than the glittery girl.

Homecoming, Sadie Hawkins, Prom Night — oh the memories, and none of them good. I missed my junior prom after my parents nixed the very nice guy I’d been dating. I made my senior prom, and it was … well let’s just say he was cute but psycho, and his allure was quickly axed. Then there was college in the seventies, and we were all way too cool for prom. But I’ve heard that some people like it.

Go forth. Grab the night. Be yourself.

On My Walk: Six Sisters No More

Six Sisters
The Lovely Girls

I’ve lived in the same neighborhood with the same walking path on the same streets with the same houses and the same daily joys for 17 years. For the most part, only the children have changed, and of course that’s a lovely thing — growing and learning and blossoming and becoming. I have issues with change, but I do my best to handle it gracefully.

Sometimes though, it hurts to the core.

Sometimes it’s murderous.

You may not remember my first post on the sisters shown above, but oh they were magnificent. Huge lovelies planted together like sisters indeed, filled to the brim with boughs and acorns and leaves shimmering with every passing breeze. Every single day, they were the highlight of my walk, and I’m pretty sure they enjoyed the meeting as much as I did.

One day last week, I noticed some trimming in progress, which isn’t unusual with trees. But then the next day they were missing — gone — a HUGE empty space surrounded by sawdust and loss. They had not only been cut to the ground, but their very roots dug out, tossed into trucks, and hauled off as if they had never existed.

Who does these things?

In this case, new owners moved in, ripped out the old and planted spindly screening trees. They could be considered cute enough, but they’ll never be majestic or live lifetimes or serve as the protectors and watchers of the neighborhood.

Change sucks. People say it isn’t true and I know they’re right in some sense, but in my world, change can really suck. Sigh.

Sunshine and Hurricanes

I had almost three blissful weeks at Pawleys Island, interrupted only by a hurricane (minor detail) (or not). It isn’t as though hurricanes are rare in September, and it isn’t as though I’m unfamiliar with both the phenomenon and the havoc it can wreak, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it. We were deep in the midst of awakening our brains and creating and walking and walking more and talking and dreaming and making.

And then the sea got wild.

And then it got wilder.

And then we were evacuated. C’est la vie.

We only missed a couple of days, but of course those two days equate to at least seven more projects, eight more walks on the beach, several more armloads of shells, hours and hours of laughter, seven fabulous meals, and too many hugs to count.

Pawleys, I love you. See you next September.

Left to Right and Top to Bottom: Cloud reflections on wet sand; Caroline working on a woodblock; Dinner!; Night moves on the beach; Caele’s charcuterie; Laura McKellar’s glass mosaic; Laura Hitchcock’s crone-in-progress; Plum tarts with salad and burrata; Artwork by Staci Swider; Leaders Pam and Laura; Cocktails at Chive Blossom; Local landscaping; Mosaic-in-Progress by Pam; Sea creatures that attached themselves to an old flip flop on the beach; Painting by Laura Hitchcock; Pawleys Evening; Mary making magic with glass; Susannah the supreme ice cream maker; Armload of conch shells.

How to Use Slut in a Sentence

Admittedly and unabashedly, I’m a wind slut pure to the core. There’s nothing else that makes me open all my tendrils and glow, riding the breeze with arms and legs and fingers and toes outstretched at the hint of a sudden, unexpectedly delicious breeze. It makes me all Sigourney Weaver, suddenly bellowing COME TO ME MASTER!!!

My children, of course, think I’m crazy. They run and hide, always afraid someone will catch a glimpse of them and assume that they’re equally nuts. They’re not, of course. Not yet.

And how delightful that I’m at the beach for three weeks with a passel of girls on retreat. And how delicious that we’re each able to use our time as we wish. And how exceptionally lucky that it’s September, with a largely barren beach laid out at my feet for the taking. And take you I shall, you wanton wind, tousling my hair and curling my toes, and me not giving any kind of a damn.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s to grab every bit of it and learn to dance with the wind.

Home / Not Home


You know how after you’re gone for a week or a month or only a few days and you come home and, for just a moment (or a week), you can’t find even the things you normally use DAILY and that have been in the same place for years?

And isn’t that kinda cool — to know that a few days of new input can completely shift your view, your routine, your same old/same old — so quickly?

And then suppose we think about it a bit, and make the conscious decision not to go back, NOT to remember the routines that once filled our minds quite full to the brim so quickly. Suppose we consciously decide to embrace the shake-up and reinvent at least once a year. Could you do it?

And I don’t mean leaving your family, because family is the best kind of absolute, or giving up your passions, which are passions for a reason, but simply waving tootleoo to habits and assumptions and routines that we blindly embrace and keep on the nightstand simply because they’ve always been there — always within reach — always easy and familiar. Suppose instead we make a conscious decision to embrace the not-familiar, the slightly difficult, the monumentally hard.

There’s much to be said for the familiar and even the easy. It’s why we love coming home, re-entering the embrace that fits just right, the dailiness we’ve created. But suppose we take this moment — this fraction of a second of omg-where’s-the-toothpaste, to look at our lives.  To look at our series of moments which can be either tiny embraces or monumental rediscoveries, to hold on to this lost-ness and re-imagine it as an opportunity for reconsideration and reinvention. Suppose we clean house, routine-wise and image-wise and imagining-wise, deciding which to keep, which to commit to wholeheartedly, which to see anew, and which might be holding us back from our own evolution?

Pamela Goode, born 1954, evolved at a rapid pace until 1978, a moderate pace until 1995, stalled for the next 30 years, died.

Let’s not go that route.

Fly

My dad used to dream about flying. In the dreams, he’d crouch down and begin flapping his arms until he took off exploring the universe. Me, not so much. I think I’ve dreamt of flying twice, and both times I was able to lift off, but then just bounced around the ceiling. It was a start, but hardly exhilarating.

A few days ago though, a cool thing happened. I was walking through the neighborhood and uncharacteristically glanced up, up, up. To my utter surprise, two storks were soaring around in the sky above me, and they were absolutely gorgeous.

I’m somewhat accustomed to wildlife. Our house fronts on heavily wooded areas that promise a daily bounty of one bird/rodent/fish or another. There are often herons in the creek, standing quite still with eyes focused hard on the flowing water for edibles, plenty of owls hooting back and forth in the afternoons and evenings, or once when I drove home in the dark, an owl who flew beside my car, his eyes perfectly level with mine until I reached the house and off he went. Lately our frequent flyer has been a rather hefty hawk that perches at the tippy-top of a cypress wavering from the weight, and a bit too close to the bird feeder for my comfort. We also have plenty of deer that trot across the creek and wander the backyards, showing their babies the ropes. And of course mystery animals. One morning we noticed HUGE footprints in the mud near the creek after a rain, and we never had a clue who made them ….

But no storks.

And then suddenly there were two. Two drop-dead gorgeous birds flew together in graceful circles directly above me — not over the creek, but on my city street, and I was awe-struck.

So I’ve been reading up on them. Storks can live thirty-nine years. They’re among the highest flying birds in the world, and travel up to 16 miles an hour. Were it not for the height, you could mistake them for ballerinas, stretching necks and legs and wings to create a very Rudolf Nureyev look as they fly.

They’re pure magic, and I’m taking their message to heart.

(Stock (or Stork) Photo)

Street Trash

Yes, my mom did indeed tell me not to pick up “stuff” on the street. And yes, she had good reason, but also yes, I do it anyway. In fact, I do it every chance I get. It’s a kinda caffeine-like addiction, but without the shakes — only glee.

I’m not sure how or why or when it started, but I can’t get enough of accidental street art. The random bits of shape and color against black asphalt call to me like mourning doves, only a bit dirtier, and I grab them like Sandpipers stealing periwinkles on the beach.

I’m pretty sure you can see the allure, right? A little boy whose wagon wheel fell from his pocket, the death of a worm whose last message to the planet is love, a yellow bottle cap whose vaginal shape speaks of rebirth, a gorgeous fall leaf that has somehow matured and fallen several months early (which couldn’t be a good thing), total joy in the marriage of children and chalk, and a crimson leaf that has succumbed to changes I can’t identify, but I love her just the same.

As always, my message in the post is Look. See.

There’s magic everywhere.

In the Dark

Last night we walked across the quiet street in the almost-dark and settled onto the dock to watch the mullets jump. I can promise you with all my heart, fingers, and toes that these are words I’ve never said before, and also that even as a beach girl, I have no clue what a mullet looks like. I DO know that they’re out in force in the dark, twisting and flashing across the night, sometimes solo and other times in groups large enough to turn every head on the docks.

Or in some cases, gigantic splashes from a passing school that wants to show off their sass and leap all at once in a shimmery flicker.

I don’t know. There’s something rather Deliverance-y about this story, but totally without the pig parts. Lots of stars, lots of dark, lots of magical splashing, lots of howling laughter.

And then I stepped a bit to one side and there — standing in mud up to his ankles with a look of quiet, intense focus and surrounded by a bevy of laughing, midnight beauties, I suddenly saw him — a huge blue heron just standing there waiting to pounce.

As far as I could tell, he never did manage to grab a late dinner, and as we walked away, he was suddenly nowhere to be found. But we shared a moment in the night, even though I’m not sure he enjoyed it as much as we did.

I can tell you this, though — we’ll be back.

Addendum: We did return — same dock, same night filled with stars — and not a single mullet, not a single splash, not a single heron.