At this time of year in Northern California, nature spills color of such brilliance in such abundance that it a hardly seems feasible that these plants are real. Recently, I was driving up the coast and passed a palm tree that seemed to have had its roots wrapped in a blanket so shockingly pink that it could have only been dyed with the most artificial of aniline dyes. Positively fluorescent. The kind of pink that years ago was used to dye rabbit fur pom-poms on ice skates and now serves as hair dye for the those who are too young (or too old) to be afraid of cancer and just want to stand out from the crowd.
But surely this lone palm, soaring above surrounding shrubbery, had no overt desire to be noticed.
What was I seeing?
I had my question answered a few days later when walking by the shore. I came upon a front yard, not quite as pink as the palm tree skirt but pink enough, and these flowers were close enough to see and even touch. The feathery flowers with their bright yellow centers grew on a creeping succulent with thick green leaves, not quite an ice plant but perhaps related. As the blooms were packed so closely on the plant that no green sneaked through, I wondered how that enthusiastic bloomer managed photosynthesis on these newly sunny days. . .
This photo doesn't really do the plant justice, but you get the idea. Such exuberance is summer not spring but by summer they too will be gone.
Mesembryanthemum (I think)
My own garden is also blooming pink but rather more modestly. The foxgloves have begun their annual display, always a delight, just as the early stocks are going to seed. One day my garden will be a lovely cottage garden, alive with flowers and herbs, but first I need to convince my little dog, my pal Earnest, to let the flowers grow.
We're making progress.
Now, when he tosses his ball in the air and it lands in the flower bed, he comes and gets me. He used to just tramp right in and over. The Columbine and several poppies disappeared in those forays, but c'est la vie. He lives here, too.
We're working it out. :-) I respect his paths (I keep them relatively plant free), and he respects my planting beds . . . seems to work out nicely. Maybe because we take long walks together; maybe because I know the best spots to play ball. Maybe because he loves me, and I love him.
My dear friend Earnest resting near a newly planted Santa Rosa plum and lettuce bed
Today when I opened my refrigerator and peered into my vegetable crisper, I was certain that today would be the day when the romaine lettuce, purchased one week before Thanksgiving, would finally be declared dead and gone. I opened the bag and saw that the outer leaves had decayed. Their edges had grown black and slimy, but when I removed the two heads from the bag and stripped away the decaying outer leaves, lo and behold, this is what I saw.
Five-month-old Romaine lettuce
I have no choice but to continue the experiment for another month or two or three. Looks pretty good for five-month-old lettuce, doesn't it?
At the full moon perigee, we expect earthquakes. Instead, we get cold. Winter has arrived late this year, a burr stuck to the hem of spring. It's important, I suppose, to remind ourselves that burrs carry seeds, and the tenacity of those burrs allow plants at home in one valley to hop rivers, cross mountains, move to the next valley, settle down and grow again.
It's all in how you roll the dice.
city trash can, 8th & Peralta, West Oakland
. . . where roofs are closer to the sky than to the floor,
lights kept small and close,
where the art is real, the food fresh, and flowers unexpectedly wild. . .
A Fragility Fracture is a Pathologic Fracture that results from activities that would otherwise not cause harm, such as tripping on a garden path, falling from a standing height. A Pathologic Fracture is caused by a disease that weakens the bone.
Oakland is a city whose bones have been weakened by disease, a pathological and unstoppable gun violence. We suffer daily. This week, however, the city suffered a fragility fracture that will not easily heal. A lone gunman stormed into a classroom, shot and killed seven nursing students. They had little chance to escape; he ordered them to line up against a wall, and as they did, he shot them one by one, without explanation or remorse.
Then, he drove to the Safeway in Alameda, walked up to a store clerk and said I just shot some people. I need to be arrested.
Too many guns.
Frequently, while walking on the street, I hear gun shots, but now I no longer duck and cover. I just keep walking -- my body just registers direction and distance, and on I go, grateful if the exploding guns are blocks away, quickening my step if they feel closer .
And everyday, the world blooms. The rain falls. The sun shines.
And guns explode.
Why can't we get the guns off the street?
After the shooting, articles were printed declaring that California's gun laws may be the toughest in the nation (imagine that! [I can't]), but no law could have prevented this tragedy.
I can think of a law that might have prevented it -- Prohibit the sale of semi-automatics to anyone.
As a pacifist, I, of course, would like to see all guns outlawed. Sure, I have heard all the pro-gun arguments -- needed for protection, 'recreation', blah, blah, blah . . . I can argue fiercely against those claims yet understand why they are being made, but really can any sensible argument be made in favor of allowing citizens to carry semi-automatic weapons??
I think not.
At the far north end of my street, nearer to Emeryville, further from BART, is a confluence of sorts. The park lands of Mandela Parkway gather speed to leap over Grand Avenue, rivers of traffic pour off and on the freeway, and most recently the ArtIsMobilUs
bus shifted languidly from one side of the street to the other in front of Peralta Studios.I smile every time I pass it. I feel embraced by the ecstatic creativity of these two artists: Ezra Li Eismont and Crayone, grateful for their energy welcoming me to my neighborhood.
. . . and disappears too quickly into the thrum of the city streets. Where have the past two weeks gone? Why have I not posted anything here? Am I dead? Dying? Sick? Confused? Captured? Stuffed under the kitchen sink, all trussed up with dental floss?
None of the above. I have no excuse. I've just been wandering, in and out of rain, re-imagining spring.
And spring has been happening.
Flowers bursting from concrete.
Seas lifting past usual borders, leaving behind wisps of ocean hair.
And in some neighborhoods, there are new houses of a size suitable for fairies more at home sheltering under lily leaves. Furniture-less, these houses keep the rain off words -- spread the word. Keep literature circulating and free.
I'm all for it.
So winter leaves, summer comes sneaking in, and I am making my own decisions about my own teeny-weeny house of a size suitable for dreams.
What am I in the eyes of most people - a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person - somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then - even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.
. . . So Vincent Van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo.
Now, I'm going to go and make some tapioca. I love tapioca -- fish eyes and glue, we used say as kids, our spoons clanking against the metal sides of the pan, polishing it clean before the pudding cooled.
Fish eyes and glue.
Staying sane while working a steady-eddy phone job requires periodic full-body immersion in art, but petty-betty phone jobs don't provide the kind of money needed to buy theatre tickets or pay for expensive museum admissions. So like any starving artist in desperate need of art, I do what is necessary to throw myself onto or into the nearest art island/slagheap/ burning bush (or swamp).
his week, I hustled over to SF to serve as a volunteer usher at Forum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' experimental theatre venue. I wanted to see Eiko & Koma
, originally produced as a gallery installation
for the Walker Art Center but then recreated as a more formal performance piece together with SF's own Kronos Quartet. It was, I thought, just the thing to take my mind away from surveys and chitter-chatter, maybe push me into the light . . . or bury me in dark. Either way, I was ready -- I thought -- to sit quietly for four hours as the two of them lay naked barely moving, caught inside haunting bells mixed with the lapsed strings of the Kronos Quartet.
I would sit -- I thought -- as silently, as still as their unclothed bodies dusted with white rice powder and bits of leaves and feathers. I would be as naked as they, my mind my spirit as stripped as motionless, lying on mounded dirt, while the Kronos played. Either I was caught thinking (again) or I should stop already with all this thinking.
I didn't know that my volunteer gig would remove me from the performance space, abandon me to the narrow space of an organized past. I did not know I would not be asked to seat the audience and then left to my own devices within in the womb of the performance space as expected. I was surprised and a bit chagrined that I was instead positioned as a "guard" of the 'archives,' asked to stand in a back corner behind the impervious black curtain separating the stage from an artificial yet "upfront" backstage where a suspended oversized rack holding costumes from past performances swayed above a floor littered with snapshots from past performances.
Nostalgia gone wild.
I was supposed to keep folks from walking away with the photos, from grabbing the costumes unceremoniously, from sneaking into the dark unexplored space behind the stage. Control the crowd. But I was alone in that corner. I was expected to guard the past, but, of course, no one was interested in visiting the past.
No one cared to dive headfirst into the sensuous floor to ceiling cascade of fiber, string, and paper that had been essential to the set of a previous performance. No one reached out to grab the over-sized kimonos, the faux bearskin wraps, or the silky scarlet camisole suspended above the hundreds of photos scattered about the floor. No one knelt to peer at those snapshots or picked them up to hold them closer to the light.
No one wandered into the corral of the past. The audience was dutiful and respectful. The door opened. The door closed. They walked in, turned left, sat down, and stayed neatly folded onto the benches inside the curtained performance space.
The musicians played. The bells tolled. The two naked dusted bodies curled and uncurled, and I, guard of the past, stayed in my corner, leaning on myself, splashed color, dim light, and violins, stretched past fragile.
I make a lousy guard -- not really my nature to guard things -- but in this case I was a ridiculous guard, a Beckettian guard, waiting for waiting, standing inside of standing, leaning on nothing.
I was extraneous.
I would like to believe that the audience was more focused on the present and thus ignored the carefully collected past, hanging unceremoniously off to the side.