Howl

Coyotes are moving in. I haven’t seen one yet, even though our garden along the wooded creek provides some prime hors d’oeuvres, but I’m getting the emails every couple of days now. “Coyote spotted on Cassamia Glen. Coyote StareHe was so thin he walked through the bars of my iron gate.” “Coyote spotted on Forest Drive, trotting down the middle of the street in broad daylight. A neighbor’s dog barked like mad, and the coyote never even glanced over.” Phantoms are walking among us, their wildness brushing too close to our cultivated lives, and I can’t help feeling a little like Harry Potter spying the wispy cloaktrails of a dementor.

Back in the 80’s when I owned every Molly-Ringwold-worthy funky pin to be found at Wal-Mart, I had a cute little pewter rendition of a howling coyote. He seemed so whimsically free-spirited and a little like me with a heart full of song and a soul full of wanderlust. A cocker spaniel with a great set of lungs. Youthful myopia, I loved you so! Wiser now with better glasses and living in an increasingly cat-free neighborhood, coyotes simply suck, and their eerie howl is about as close to the tolling of the bell as it gets.

Coyotes, unlike me, have no fear. Airplanes are hitting them on runways. What living being can you name that will stand its ground while a 900,000 pound 747 bears down screaming at 130 decibels? No wonder the frenzied barking of a domesticated golden retriever doesn’t warrant so much as a glance.

I have fear. I feel it when I think of the friend who died on Tuesday after my husband held his hand and laughed goodbyes with him, less than 30 days after the doctors saw cancer. I feel it when I think of a friend who died of unseen injuries on Sunday, 20 days after walking away from totaling her car and so grateful to be alive. I feel it when I think of my father-in-law, dead only 11 days after discovering lung cancer, or my mother, dead in 6 months from a condition considered “easily controlled by drugs,” or my too-many friends seeking life through chemotherapy and other poisons. Coyotes are everywhere — hungry, unafraid, and thin enough to pass through our gates.

And I want to learn how to beat the coyote at his own game. I want to learn that laser beam focus, that unflinchable exterior, that iron-clad intent. And most of all, I want to learn to stop being so “nice”, so allowing, so patient, so quiet, so willing to take a back seat, so ready to fight for others but not for myself. I’m not there yet, but I’m in training, and the coyotes are taunting me to give it a go. There will be howling.

Howl, Mosaic Art by Pamela Goode

Leaving Home on a Morning Walk

Poem and Photo by Pamela Goode

When I walk now,
I gasp a little.

Weak-kneed and queasy,
trusting myself only on this simple
path —
straight and safe and
known

(we love the known),

but walking,
nonetheless.

Sun and breeze a shield of sorts,
holding me together or
(at least)
familiar parts of me
within arm’s
reach.

Comfort enough
for now.

 

c. Pamela Goode 2012

Undoing

Undoing, Photo by Pamela Goode

Today, I am undoing. In this modern-day world where “doing” divides the successful from the also-rans, and “undoing” is tantamount to cutting your losses and limping back to the starting gate, it feels surprisingly good. I’m not frantic to make up the time lost, I’m not cursing myself over a lack of precision, nor am I on pins and needles about the final outcome. I like to work with a fair amount of precision. I aim for perfection, but I’m not a slave to it. I like to let the fabric of life have its way with me — and who’s to say this project or that won’t turn out better with a little free spirit thrown in? They almost always, always do.

So I’m slicing and removing, rather happily, what was really pretty much good enough to begin with. And it isn’t because I need the control, although that would be understandable. And it isn’t because I’m looking for pristine, although I’d certainly take it. And it isn’t because I feel anger and the need to destroy, or even the need to create. It feels calming, and free, and soft, and intimate, and in some ways almost motherly, although I’m not sure which of us is the mother at this moment.

And I think it feels good because it’s deliberate. I made a deliberate decision to take apart and resew these seams not only to make them straighter or to ease the way for the next, but because it feels good to get in there and wrestle with the guts, to decide, on my terms, which to leave alone, perfect or not, and which to slide my fingers along, unravel, consider, and remake in the style of my choosing. And yes, I am actually piecing and sewing and resewing fabrics, and yes, this is blissfully metaphoric. And of course the best part is that when I’m finished, it won’t just be pieces of cloth fitted together and beautiful, but pieces of cloth fitted together and beautiful and deeply, deeply considered, and this is what love is, yes?

And tomorrow the sun will be out and I will be in the garden, and my next post will be about weeding.

Proliferative Rat Bastards

I don’t know how long I’ve had breast cancer, only that today was the first day I woke up knowing it. Today was the first day I opened my eyes aware that something inside me wanted more, and it wasn’t love or inspiration or creation or enlightenment. Today was the first day I opened my eyes aware that something inside me isn’t “me” at all, and I’m telling you, it’s a total Sigourney Weaver moment, but without the big paycheck.

There are many qualities I have to reach for on a daily basis, because living outside of myself does not come so easily for me. My True Self is 99% sensitivity and introspection. I see in others what I know in myself, and I try to serve as a partner along the path. And if I’m all about looking inward, how did I not see this? How did I not feel this? How the hell did I grow this, and allow it to feast on me?

There are many things I’ve worried about in my life, and breast cancer was never, ever, ever even a blip on the radar. I don’t have a single risk factor for breast cancer. I’ve taken diligent precautions in other areas that were much bigger threats to my health. I don’t even think mammograms hurt — piece of cake. Although I hadn’t had one in a while. Not for any good reason — is there a good reason? The last thing my beloved doctor of 12 years said to me before she left the building a month ago and joined a “boutique” practice was “Go downstairs and make an appointment for a mammogram before you leave the building.” And I did. If I could afford the $2500 annual fee, I would walk into her new office and hug her big.

And this is what it feels like: Strength. Calmness. Hysteria. Dissolution. Resolve. Lack of Focus. Resignation. Belief. Giving Up. Anxiety. Muteness. Dirtiness. Openness. Love. Hate. Love. All on the fast track and vibrating like a loaded spring inside me, blocking the pathways between sensing and knowing, between realizing and speaking, between the intent and the act.

I’m not going to turn this blog into a cancer diary, because this damnable grabby greedy rat bastard stealer of life won’t be with me for long. But he has forced himself uninvited and unwanted onto my path, and he will change me a bit just as love and childbirth and friends and Italy and art have changed me, and I will continue to scour the corners of my psyche to see what’s hiding and what needs the light of day for a better understanding. So yeah, more of the same. But I’ve got my growl on now.

Looking at Trees

Costa Rica Tree, by Pamela Goode

When the kids were young and we lived in a small town in South Carolina, I was briefly a biker. I’d hop on my Wal-Mart Special every afternoon, plug in Jason’s walkman and pedal as hard as I could, asking questions and listening for answers in the music. After the requisite number of laps around the park by the bay, I’d coast into the historic district and walk my bike into the cemetery at Prince George, laying my body flat on the weathered stone that covered one of the raised tombs beneath the dogwoods. Music off now, I’d stare through the leaves, lime or forest or claret as the seasons changed, peering beyond them to watch dark birds so far beyond my eyes etching circles into the blue. I didn’t think, and I didn’t need to think — the watching filled my heart and soul and soothed my limbs and made the way seem easy. Sometimes I’d let a question lie beside me on the stone in quiet co-existence. More often than not, I walked back to my bike and headed for home with a fresh view. I made friends with the issues, and the issues were usually content to fall away.

Some days I need more trees. I need to be able to stand on the sand near the bay, or sit on the gritty picnic table in salty jeans with my face upturned and listen to the trees talking each to each, the wind singing by on tiptoe or deep-throated, grabbing me by the ears and rouging my cheeks and urging me to join the dance, to hear, to grasp, to run, to yelp with joy or sorrow or passion or fear or laughter but to pull out of myself and join in the sound of the pines and the sky and the circling birds. I haven’t been there in a while.

I once wondered if I listened hard enough, or well enough, or often enough, if I could learn the words or the tune or the meaning of treesong. Outside of Harry Potter and, was it Babes in Toyland? — I’ve never seen an evil tree. Trees are universally comforting. They shelter, cradle, feed, and dance and soothe us with a sense of permanence and balletic invincibility. I need to take myself back there.

Some days the best thing that happens is the kindness of a stranger with grandma hair and warm hands, making sure she looks you in the eye when she speaks so you can feel her words even if you can’t hear them. Some days it hurts to reach because you have a hole in your flesh big enough to pass a pair of tweezers through. Some days those you adore want to be with you every minute, because they need to hold on to the love and make it real enough to stand as a fortress. Some days are made of nothing but hours and the ticking of second hands, because nothing exists between the tweezers and the call. Some days there is nothing better than holding hands, and nothing that heals as much as looking at trees.

Down Deep

I’d been looking for ten months and one week. Not constantly, of course, but there were more than a few sporadic foraging forays when my aggravation billowed to extremes. Where could I have put them? Were they gone? I remember thinking, “I’ve got to move this before Vernon sees it and heads to the trash can. I know — I’ll hide it under the bed.” But it wasn’t under the bed — not a single one of the many times I fell to my knees and poked my hands and head beneath the dust ruffle, scanning, of course, nothing but dust.

It wasn’t in any closet in the house, carefully secreted behind ski parkas, the wet suit or boxes of Matchbox cars. It wasn’t in the attic, playing coy behind a bag of tinsel or that inflatable reindeer. It wasn’t in my trunk, which inexplicably still holds some giftwrap bought on sale four summers ago. It was just gone, and I moaned about the loss often — and loudly.

Naturally, we all suspected Vernon, who often views my “treasures” as mouse fodder, and 160 used napkins from a barbecue dinner ten months ago stored in a Hefty bag would certainly top that list. But I had big plans for them, and he swore up and down that he hadn’t touched them. And after all, I had told myself that I had to move them. Didn’t I move them? And where the hell were they, hidden so well that I hadn’t stumbled across them in ten whole months?

They weren’t just any napkins. I handpicked six different fabrics and hand-pinked them for my son and daughter-in-law’s rehearsal dinner. Besides the sentimental value, which was elephantine, they were splendid, happy fabrics, which allowed me to justify the purchase because I knew I could use them for fun dinners on the lawn, and make patchwork fabric for a sundress and some nifty studio aprons. And now, it was an absolute necessity to make a string (or five) of bunting flags. Quite simply, no other fabric would do.

And so this morning you could have found me again on my knees, poking impotently about beneath the dust ruffle and pulling back empty-handed and pouting, tiptoeing through the attic to peer high and low in the dim morning light, opening and closing one closet door after another.

And then suddenly I found them. Sitting in the very same bag in the very same corner they had enjoyed for the last ten months (and one week), with a snowfall of boxes hiding them quite neatly. I thrust my hand down and claimed them, slung them over my shoulder like a jolly old guy, hoisted them into the washer, and jumped into Vernon’s unsuspecting arms as he was climbing the stairs. “I found them! I found them! I found them!” Sometimes it’s the little things . . . .

I knew a girl in high school, Karen, who used the following as her Senior Quote: “Itching for what you want doesn’t do much good; you’ve got to scratch for it.” And usually, you gotta scratch pretty damn hard. They say Seek and Ye Shall Find. I seeked, sought, soaked — nothing. Sometimes you gotta dig down deep. As humans, we have an aversion to it, but in my opinion, that’s where your life is waiting.

Or in my case, bunting!

Bunting

Bye Bye Baby . . .

When I signed the lease on a small and buggerdly ugly space on May 20, 2008, a former friend wrote me the following: “It was a rainy day with big dark clouds and secret whispers floating throughout the air the day Pam Goode moved into her new studio space. Her head was heavy and felt full of cobwebs, and the room was not worthy of energy. It was just a smelly, dank, gross, dark, negative space with a terribly big bad vibe — and nothing could be done to save her from the frightening fate that was ahead.”

I bought a lime-scented candle and went at it.

Frightening fate, indeed. When I opened Ciel Gallery + Mosaic Studio, I had zero experience running a gallery — but I knew there were artists who needed a space to exhibit, and I knew I could provide that. I had zero experience selling art — but I knew I could speak knowledgeably about the work. I had zero experience teaching, but I knew I could share my passion. I had a very, very minimal bit of experience in social settings — but I knew I could be articulate about my love of mosaic art, even if more frivolous chit chat wasn’t my thing. I wasn’t much with a hammer, but give me a crowbar and a paintbrush and I can do wonders.

In short, it worked. And it worked because it was everything I love all rolled into 588 square feet. “Find your passion,” they say.

Frightening fate, indeed. I walked in three years and three months ago with little more than an idea, a smidgeon of unexpected cash, a perhaps ill-advised amount of energy and optimism, and an enthusiastic husband. Today, I closed the door and walked out an entirely different woman.

It all began with a fairly modest plan.  But you know how our offspring are . . . . She wanted to grow, wriggling and pushing against her baby-ness, swimming laps around the woman with one toe in the water, testing for tepid. Finally, I stood back and let her have her way with me.

A favorite mantra is that in order to bring change to your life, you must first make space for it. In this instance, the “space” was very literal and, uncharacteristically for me, more external than internal. That 588 feet changed my life, not only with her lime green floors (she insisted), but with her open-door policy and her abundant trust that everyone who stepped inside would become a friend. She was right, of course, and the “space” that we made together with several hundred artists and students was not only a gathering spot for mosaic art, but a sanctum for laughter, learning, letting go, and forging ahead.

I do think it’s possible for a place to have a smelly, dark, negative vibe. But I also believe that sometimes that smelly, dark, negative vibe is coming less from the smelly space, and more from the smeller.

It’s funny how some of us believe that nothing is possible, and others of us believe that everything is possible. Reality, of course, is surely somewhere in the middle, but as always, we tend to get what we’re looking for. Actually, we usually get a whole lot more.

The new space is perhaps more frightening than the first — crumbling floors, three layers of bad ceiling that need to be removed , uneven walls and missing plumbing. Crowbar heaven.

Old Ciel, you were my first, and I’ll never forget you. New Ciel, bring it on. Cold water, trepidation, frightening fate and all.

Bye Bye Baby — see you around.

And all of a Sudden . . .

Big Ben by Martin Keene

the wait was over. It’s like the Limbo Dial spun itself silly and suddenly I was plunked down on the sidewalk, handed a quarter, and told to be on my merry way. And a merry way it shall be. But still . . .

I can’t help wondering who the timekeeper of this universe is. I can’t help wondering why forward motion stops with a jerk and leaves you dangling on the threshold of a leap. I can’t help wondering what lubricates the rusty key and gets the whole shebang moving again just as if you didn’t spend those months staring at days that crept by, eying you warily to make sure you stayed put, uninvolved, uninvited, fettered and quite inanimate. And most of all, I can’t help wondering why the wheel stops short for so many of us at almost the same exact moment in this anathema called TIME, and how it can be possible for the wheel to wind back up and heave forward in a single motion, the same single motion at the same single moment for those same ones of us again. And perhaps . . . I wonder . . . could groups of us be united not so much by common traits or experiences or hair color or literary loves, but simply because we’ve found ourselves on the same capricious wheel, whirring along at the same speed, sharing the same lulls, the same bumps, the same spurts? Could it be?

And so the wheel begins again and it’s almost as though it never stopped. Flurry replaces lethargy; the mind spins; feet become fleet; busy-ness soothes us and feels good. I don’t know what it meant — the waiting — but I’m glad it’s gone for a time. Godspeed.

I Like to Pretend

When do we lose interest in “let’s pretend?” When do we stop allowing ourselves to kerplunk right down in foreign scenarios, dreams, flights of fancy? I know the why (too many disappointments to risk one more), but when is the when? And (egads) why do we allow it?

I’m “away” for the weekend — my favorite place to be. It almost doesn’t even matter where “away” is — but as places go, this one tops many lists. I’m sipping tea on a deck with a rail made of handcut and hand-reassembled mountain laurel branches — a wood and air mosaic if you will. A bird visits for handouts. A mist rolls across the faces of my hosts: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, is that an eighth? mountain ranges. Peace.

I like to pretend. What if I lived here? What would I hang on this wall, what mountain tomatoes would be the best to slice for lunch, which fruits in the feeder would bring the most colorful birds? And best of all, with ample time to look, what would I see in the faces of the mountain? What whispers would I hear in the night?

My life opens up when I pretend. I live in beautiful spaces, raw places, dine on the exotic or on the field greens I watched a woman in black gather from an empty lot in Greece. I imagine a new wardrobe: floaty and aqua near the sea, downy knits for the hills, pintucks in muted neutrals for France, accessorized by a long and skinny linen bread bag for markets.

But I can pretend just as well in my own backyard. I love to walk at night past the houses that look so alive, so exciting, with lights ablaze, the colors of various rooms leaping out (hello!), while I admire the addition of this or that piece of art. What if I lived here? Or there? Or, ooh! there!? Drop me down in a new surrounding and I fantasize: how would I be different?

Would the deep rose walls warm me? Would a daily infusion of Greek herbs clear my head? Would these blue mountains ground me, or would my spirit heal from the constant tumbling and resurgence of the sea? Am I fully a product of my current environment? 80 percent? 50 percent? How much of myself do I take with me from place to place, and how much of those places do I bring home?

Is there a dividing line between the life I lead and the life I dream, or do they commingle to make me whole?

The Summer We Waited

Waiting, c. Pamela Goode

Between the idea / And the reality / Between the motion / And the act / Falls the Shadow ~ T.S. Eliot

Am I going to fail my Zen test because I can’t love the shadow? I’m trying, really I am. I know good things will come, that fruition takes time, but . . . .  Good things come to he who waits is, I’m sorry, crap. Sitting around waiting never got anyone anywhere.  Good things come to those who DO.  But . . . do what? Where do you go when there’s nowhere to go?

I hate waiting. Of course this is a pointless comment — does anyone like waiting? Waiting eats our time, our patience, our resolve, our certainty, our energy. Waiting sucks, quite literally, and I am sucked out.

The spring seemed (was) rife with possibilities. I worked to schedule my time to accommodate them all, made lists and guides and proposals, gathered supplies and references, made contacts  and pursued leads. And then I moved on to take care of everything else — all the things that don’t wait while we’re waiting.

And it was good, but then . . . nothing.

Patience, patience, all good things take time. Deadlines pass. Excuses made. New deadlines created that will then pass and more waiting, more setting aside new chunks of more focused time to complete what you offered to committed to wanted to complete even though the game keeps changing. And the waiting gets a little less enchanting, a little less hopeful, a little less patient.

I fully believe that for change to occur, we must make the space for it. We must empty ourselves of pre-conceived ideas, old habits, tired ways, and the blindness born of always seeing things in the same fashion. But even being open to change isn’t enough — we have to empty the closets if we want change to stay for a while. But how long do you wait? How long to you wait and believe, with that damn shadow pulling out every sneaky trick in the book to become your new best friend? At what point will I morph from the being-who-welcomes-my-full-destiny to the-lady-with-so-much-time-that-she’s-making-macaroni-mosaics?

Too-abundant and so-rarely-productive surplus of time, I hate you. I want to love you, but I don’t. I want what I’ve worked for, and I want it now. Or even tomorrow, but I’ve had it up to here with this flapping in the breeze.

It’s a funny thing about waiting. Funny in that f***you sort of way. Because in the interim, time does what times does best: it changes us. Not the change we planned for hoped for made space for welcomed, but in some Other way, a way that’s a bit harder to pinpoint, speaking with a softer voice and holding out a very blurry map, but helping herself to my closet space nonetheless.

*This is not the post I meant to write, but this is the post that came out. I meant to point you toward my two newest blogs (that’s what too much time will get you): Wild Hair Adventures, a compilation of my travel essays and photographs (toddler stage), and Ormolulu, a blog to celebrate junking excursions (still quite an infant). Hope you like.