Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Visit to Baja & the Gray Whales

So it's time again for a trip to Baja California Sur and Magdalena Bay where the gray whales teach their children the ways of the ocean.

I'm heading there in a few days with my daughter Erin, a wonderful photographer, and if we're lucky we'll get some good photos to share on the blog.

For months now my posts here have been meager. I'm hoping to change that in the coming weeks after my return from Cabo.

People think of Cabo as a party town, but there's a sense of wonder and reverence there too. For me it's a chance to look out at the ocean, watch the sunrise, float around in the bahia, scratch the back of a 20-ton mammal floating near my panga (like the boat in the photo), and appreciate life for what it is -- something sacred.

Sounds a little corny, right? Okay then. Let's spend a second being corny. Life is good. I'm looking forward to a trip to a place where I only understand every third or fourth word. Mostly my plan is to smile a lot, point at what I need, and pay for it with a big ol' gracias!

I'm grateful for this time off. Really grateful for time with Erin. She's been travelling a lot so I haven't seen her in months it seems. Plus for the very first time, she missed our family's Christmas celebration, which included a very silly tree made of leftover evergreen branches from the corner tree place, a lot of bright twinkling lights, and a pointy top made of glitter and wings.

Does it sound like I'm having an existential crisis? No, not at all. I've been reading Jane Kenyon's poetry. She died in her 40s, and her wonderful heartfelt and truth-telling words went with her, except of course for the books she had a chance to finish. Life is good, but life is not fair. Nobody ever said it would be. But things are harsh a little too often these days.

The New Yorker has a piece on a new theory of grief as a "process" rather than Elizabeth Kubler Ross's "stages." The article talks about her life and how it ended. The heart of the article is common sense without a pile of research study outcomes. When you lose somebody you love or whose presence in the world makes your stay here on the planet a little more happy, well, it sucks. And grief sucks. And death sucks. Haven't we been scribbling that fact for 100,000 years?

But we live with it . . . and that's where resilience comes in. The article says some people have more of it than others. My theory is we can create more. Have more.

That's the not so secret secret. The resilience comes from our creativity. The words, the photos, the poems, the stories, the plays, the art, the recipes, the gardens whatever is ours to give the world.

No big awards required. No plaques or certificates. We're loved for just trying to get it right: One word, one image, one handprint in the sand, one flower, one cheese souffle. Fragile, tentative, but worth the energy and effort. Right?? Right.

So here's to clean ocean and clean air and remembering how to swim. Yikes a whale! Baja here we come!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Twelfth Night . . . An Epiphany

Well, another year is stewed and sealed and put away high on a shelf in the cupboard of our lives.

It's safe in there in the dark, and it's good we don't have to look at it for a while. Just-lived events are not the same as fuzzy little memories from the past.

Even horrible memories from the past sieve through that labyrinth of soft brain tissue until what comes out is, well, a Stephen King movie, one you can shrug off when it's over without too much residual creepiness.

The cure is never more than buying a hot chocolate and a cupcake at the local CakeLove store run by college kids from the Ukraine or Lapland.

I mean 2009 was intense, wasn't it?? Maybe it was just me. But some people I know who are as sane as a bucket of sand tell me that the world seems "speeded up," organically faster moment by moment than years past.

Remember when there was time after Thanksgiving to shop around for a Christmas tree and not buy the first one the tree guy shows you??

Actually, I didn't buy a tree this year. Long story to save for another post. I did buy a green shiny elf hat with little wings that flutter in the slightest breeze.

After you collect more jars than you can count at a glance, things change in life. And as Charlie Kaufman says through Meryl Streep's character in the movie "Adaptation" -- "I've come to understand that change is not a choice."

Maybe it's encouragement. The positive force that bounces around inside our electrons like a hoochi-coochi dancer with a bee in her pajamas.

Keep those jars safe . . . who knows when you'll be ready to take them out and give them a shake. Happy New Year!