Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Color of Clouds

This doesn't even look real, does it?
Another Dog Island sunset. That was last night's, by the way. Mr. Moon and I took a walk right before sunset and we got caught in the rain. Although that sounds about as romantic as it gets, it really wasn't. The wind was blowing so hard that the drops of rain were being driven into us like small projectiles but it wasn't a very heavy rain and we got back inside before we were soaked, not that being soaked is a real problem at the end of July in North Florida.
And by the time we'd made a drink and changed out of our damp clothes, it had almost stopped raining entirely, just a few gentle drops splashing into the tidal pools as the sun was setting.
That's the thing about an island- the weather comes and the weather goes.
The emotional weather in me came and went but I realize I've got to get some help and so I will.
It's so strange. Ever since I've started this blog, I've loved writing in it with all my heart.
And right now, I barely can.
Enough evidence right there to get me to do something.
And I will.
Not that the world needs Bless Our Hearts.
But Ms. Moon does.
I'm home.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day Into Night, Night Into Day

It seems entirely unfair to have developed a new mental illness at this age, and yet, it would seem to me that this is what I have done.
The anxiety that started cropping up in the past few months seems to have found a home in my soul and for the past few days, has been constant.
I can tell you this- you won't die of it.
But as far as I can tell, that's the only good news.
I'm still on the island and Mr. Moon is with me, and bless him, bless him, bless him.
Not sure how long we'll be staying. Not sure of anything right now.
But I have faith that time will pass and one way or another, things will seem lighter, anxiety will slip away from time to time and perhaps eventually forget his way back to me.
That's my hope.
Meanwhile, here I am, there you are.
I hope all is well in your hearts.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Drifting


I took this picture this morning on my walk on the Gulf. I really couldn't see what I was taking a picture of because of the light and the way the camera works, but I clicked on faith and this is what came of it. Big piece of driftwood, sand, water, sky.
And that's about it from here today. I don't feel as if I have anything of any importance or depth or originality to report. I'm just sort of hanging. I'm feeling like that piece of driftwood, stuck in the sand, worn away by time and wind, water and sun, not going anywhere.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Flat Water, Not Much Breeze

Do you like that picture? I hope so as it took approximately four hours to upload (or is it download?) because here on Dog Island we don't need no stinkin' wireless.

Well, actually we do need it but I can't see that happening in the near future. Dog Island is like a third world country only without the corner tienda or the availability of cable or el policia.

Oh, you can get the law over here, but it takes awhile. The same is probably true of satellite but we're not here enough to need satellite and hopefully I won't be needing the police, either.
There is crime on the island sometimes and let's not pretend otherwise! I would say that approximately 80% of the people driving on the island could not pass a sobriety test, and if you can reach the gas pedal and see over the steering wheel, you can drive, sober or not. The newsletter we get from the Dog Island board always cautions folks not to let their children drive if they don't know how but they seem to be a lot more het-up about the crime of letting your dog go unleashed.

Speaking of dogs, I did not bring one. It's sad to think that I have four dogs and yet, not one of them pleases me enough that I'd want to spend a week alone with him or her. I need say no more about that.

The picture you see is one I took in the house here on the island. That's most of the living room, looking through to the kitchen and also the hallway. The only things you can't see are the bedrooms and the bathrooms which are off the hallway. Note the lovely shaggish carpet. I have no idea who thought it would be a good idea to put carpet in a beach house but I'd say, judging from the vintageness of the carpet that he or she is dead by now. We plan to eventually replace this carpet but I think that really my husband and our partner in the house are afraid to tear the carpet up because of what they might find underneath it. It's one of those situations where if you really started to work on the house, it would never end until the entire house had been rebuilt from the bottom up and why? It's sort of a shack, albeit a lovely and light-filled shack, and one with air conditioning that works so what the fuck? It is completely adequate to our needs, which is to have a place to stay while on the island, to cook in, to relax in, to sleep in. What more do we need? Well, running water that you could drink would be nice, but there again, we're like a third world country.

It's not quite noon and I have been up for quite awhile and I have taken a good walk on the Gulf where the water was flat and a bit murky. I saw one other human and she was digging for bait. We waved but did not speak. A small plane passed over and waggled his wings, which made me smile. I walked on the bay some, too, and there is not much to report today. I saw some dead fish but that was about it. Even the birds seem to be lazy today. I have heard the osprey, but not seen it. I do, however, have neighbors, which I was not expecting. The house next door, which is almost always empty, is filled with a group of people who are doing a lot of beachy things and also making use of their boat. I can hear them quite clearly and it's a bit disconcerting but not annoying. It will become annoying if they decide to party as the day rolls into evening, which frequently happens at the beach.

I am not sure what I will be doing next. This is a funny thing about coming to the island- one feels as if one should "accomplish" something, if one is me, but really, what is there to accomplish? I suppose I could wash my cereal bowl. It takes a few days to relax into the Zen of it all, to truly realize that the hours of the day may be spent in any way one wishes and it also takes a few days to figure out what exactly it is one wishes. I suppose this is true of any vacation that doesn't involve tour groups and an itinerary. If I had an itinerary it would go something like this:

Get up, drink coffee, check out the water.
Eat breakfast while sitting on the back porch with a book while checking out the water.
Go for a walk beside the water. Check it out.
Come home, drink a lot of water.
Check the e-mail and the blogs I read. This can take awhile with the dial-up connection. While you're waiting for things to download, wander about and check out the water. Also, the sky.
Post a picture and write something.
Eat lunch on the back porch while reading and checking out the water and sky.
Contemplate a nap.
And so on.

I know I need to make some bread today because somehow I forgot to bring the loaf of five-grain sourdough I bought at Publix. This is not a tragedy in that I do love to make bread and
I have plenty of time to do it.

Eventually, it will be time to watch the sunset and have a drink. That is the highpoint of the day.

And so it goes, here on Dog Island. I have had no epiphanies, I have not died of loneliness, and if I feel a bit melancholy, well, I think I would be feeling that way at home, too.
I tend to have a melancholy heart but I know that there is always the possibility for contentment and peace and even happiness and I will be watching out for all of those as I watch the water, as I watch the sky.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dog Island, Post One

I am here. On the island.
Ten trips up the rickety stairs with Rubbermaid bins and ice chests filled with all the stuff I think I'll need or want for this week by myself and everything put away and a storm passing to the west of me and trying to remember grace and hoping I packed a sense of humor along with the eight books, four magazines, new picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, salmon, vegetables, chocolate, cake, rum, beer, water, pillows, and extra pair of flip flops.
The tide is rising.
I am hoping for enlightenment, or at least a bit of lightening.
Not too much. Just enough to enlighten the sky, excite my heart, bring on the rain.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Grace


Just because I don't believe in Big Daddy God up in the sky, doesn't mean I don't believe in anything and if I do believe in anything, I think I would have to label it grace.
And I'm not even sure what grace is although I think it has something to do with unexpected gifts that fall to us even when we may not have earned them or asked for them or even known we wanted or needed them.
Blessings that just fall from the sky like the sudden shower of droplets that fell on me from the leaves of the tree I was walking under this morning where they had lain in wait since last night's rain for just that moment, just that breeze, to complete their fall to earth. It was at once an illustration of grace and an actual grace, to see all those shining drops and to look up at the leaves bathed in sunlight, tossing the water off of themselves. It startled me at first, and then it delighted me and I think grace is like that, so unexpected that it's like a tiny miracle and one we have to keep our eyes open to see, our hearts open to feel, our souls open to receive.
I feel like that today. Like my heart is opening a little bit and able to receive grace. I wonder what sort of blessings I would receive if my heart were open all the way, if I did not keep my soul and eyes shut out of fear or ignorance or habit.
It's something to think about.
And it's what I'm thinking about.
I just thought I'd offer that one up and maybe say that I'm grateful, I'm ever so grateful, for any grace that falls on me, in whatever form it takes and I'm going to try and pay attention because it just seems wrong to miss these gifts, in whatever shining form they take.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Because I Have No Xanax


Well, here I am in hour I-don't-even-know of one of the worst anxiety phases of my entire life and it's so bad that I am rethinking my trip to the island. Listen- I can't even bring myself to call the guy to set up the ride for the bay-crossing!
However, I am proceeding as if I were going; I am trying to fake this until I make this and then hope that the magic of an island cures me.
In the meantime, I am going to write out the recipe for angel biscuits because what in the world is as soothing as contemplating biscuits?
These biscuits are fussier than my normal biscuits. However, they are the very best biscuits I have ever personally made or eaten. The recipe was given to me by my husband's Aunt Ann who is a good Christian Southern woman and who died once at church on an Easter morning and was revived and risen and is living to this day in Nashville where I feel certain she is still making these biscuits.
Need I say more?
I don't think so.
Except for this- if there is someone you have set your hat for and they seem not to be sure of their feelings for you, make them these biscuits.
Things will soon be going your way and love will abound.

Angel Biscuits

4 cups self-rising flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tsp. soda
1 cup Crisco (I like butter flavored)
1 cup self-rising flour (this is not a typo)
2 cups buttermilk
1 pkg. dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water

Sift flour, sugar, and soda. Cut in shortening until texture of cornmeal. Mix the 1 cup of flour, 2 cups of milk and yeast in the water in a separate bowl. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Place in a greased, covered bowl. Keep in refrigerator for use as needed. You may keep this for up to a week and use only as much at a time as you want.
Roll out the dough on a floured counter to desired thickness and cut biscuits with a glass of desired biscuit-size that has been dipped in flour. If you want layers, roll them fairly thin, sprinkle with a little flour, fold dough over and roll again. This may be repeated several times. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until brown and lovely.

Serve with love, butter, and honey. Or, fig preserves. Recipe follows.

Fig Preserves

4 pounds of fresh figs
1 lemon
4 cups of sugar
1 cup of water

Wash figs, slice lemon extremely thin and remove all seeds. Combine sugar, water, and lemon in a large pan and bring to a boil and cook for five minutes. Add figs and cook rapidly until the figs are clear. You will know what I mean.
Seal in clean, hot jars with canning lids and bands. Process in boiling water bath for about ten-fifteen minutes. Remove jars and listen for the "pop" which means they have sealed.
Makes 3 pints.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ruby Speaks


Seems to me that the hottest new thing in blogging (and I could be years behind- who can keep up with this stuff?) is to have a guest blogger. Or to be a guest blogger. And the status is to be found in who is doing the asking or the guesting.

Like this- the highest of the high would be if Dooce asked you to sit in and do a guest blog for her. I can't even imagine the circumstance where Dooce would sit in and do a guest blog for YOU so let's forget that. It would be like trying to look at God with your own eyes and we all know where that leads.

But Black Hockey Jesus has gone on vacay and he's gotten some BIG NAMES IN BLOGGING (don't click that, it's not a link) to sit in and do guest blogs for him.

He also has a new link on his site where you can just directly go to PayPal and send him money and I really sort of love that idea. Two of my kids went to a high school that had the same idea, sort of, in that they didn't do stupid fund raisers like car washes or candy sales, they just asked the parents to send them fifty dollars a year and be done with it, which is brilliant and it worked and the parents loved it.

But of course, that was a school and they used the money for things like landscaping and computers and trips for kids who couldn't afford them.

I don't know what Black Hockey Jesus is using his money for. Perhaps to pay the BIG NAMES IN BLOGGING to guest blog for him while he's on vacation.

I'm not sure why I'm bringing all of this up except for the fact that some days Ms. Moon just doesn't have a good blog in her and a guest blogger would be nice to have on those days. And then it occurred to me that it would be pretty funny if Ruby could sit in and do a guest blog every now and then because Ruby can say things that Ms. Moon never would.
Let's pretend:

So Ms. Moon asked me to sit in and do a guest blog for her. No, she's not on vacation. Unless you call checking out of reality and checking into Chez Loony Bin is a vacation and perhaps for her it is.
You know that woman. She can find the darkness in a jar of fucking sunshine and angel glitter and she will.
She will.
That's just her way though and Lord knows I love her, even if I don't understand her.
Now me? I'm the sort of woman who can look into the darkest inky night sky and find a cell phone tower, blinking, blinking, blinking, it's little white and red light like a small beacon in the blackness, like a tiny ray of hope in the darkest heart.
"Honey," I tell Ms. Moon when she gets like this, "Quit your bellyaching and put on a bra! Okay? And some lipstick! And let's go have a drink, maybe meet up with a few cute fellas, maybe play the jukebox, have a little dance-"
And then she'll be like, "No, Ruby. I don't even feel like getting out of bed, much less putting on a bra. And I lost my lipstick at the Legion Hall. Go away. Leave me alone."
And I'll sigh and sit on the edge of the bed and rub her sweaty little head and say, "Okay darlin', tell Ruby what's wrong," and she'll start to cry, which is exactly what she needs to do and then she'll suck the tears right back up into her head where they aren't gonna do anybody on this earth one bit of good and are probably going to give her a headache and she won't say a word.
She'll just turn her head so I can't get to the good part to stroke and stare at the wall with those blue watery eyes until I hit on the right thing to say to get her to crying.
"Is it your birthday?" I'll ask her.
"No," she'll say, gray and cold and heavy like a stone would say if a stone could talk.
"Are you missing Sue?" I'll ask her, because I know this is right around Sue's birthday and she sometimes starts in to missing Sue right about now although it's been fourteen years or something since the poor girl died.
"No," Ms. Moon will say. But then I'll probably hear a sniff.
"Are you worried that you're gettin' old and you haven't done a damn thing with your life and you're thinking that maybe your husband only sticks around out of habit and that you've forgotten all your dreams and half the recipes you ever knew and that it's all downhill from here? Are you thinking about the skin on your neck and the way your arms do that flappy thing no matter how many weights you lift? Are you in mourning for your lost youth, your old dead drunk daddy, your joy, your spark, your tits and your ability to go out in public without having an anxiety attack?"
And that'll do it.
Call me cruel but I know the woman and I know she just needs a good cry and so I'll sit there on the bed while she's sobbing her poor, pathetic guts out and after about ten minutes of that, I'll get up and go make me a drink and put on some lipstick and sit on the porch and swing my legs and sip my drink and wait. Eventually, she'll get up and go splash some cold water on her face and make a cup of coffee and come and join me.
"I'm old," she'll say.
"Honey, we're all old. Let's go make some biscuits and put some of those fig preserves on 'em and enjoy this weather."
"It's hot," she'll say. "And I'm having a hot flash."
"Well why in hell are you drinking coffee then? Make you a drink and make me another while you're at it. Get those catalogs off the counter and let's find us something new and pretty to wear."
"Why?" she'll ask and I have to tell you that my patience will be wearing thin.
"Because we're girls and girls like pretty things to wear," I will say.
"I don't go anywhere so I don't need anything pretty," she'll say. "I don't wear the clothes I have."
"Well maybe if you'd put something pretty on now and then someone might ask you to go somewhere," I'll say, pointing out the obvious. "All you ever wear are those ugly-ass man pants that I wouldn't take you to watch a dog fight in."
And then maybe, with any luck, she'll start laughing and we'll have that drink and eventually she'll make some biscuits and we'll eat them with plenty of butter and some fig preserves and I might even get her to put on some lipstick and a bra.

Okay. Stop. Get the fuck off my blog, Ruby. What planet do you live on and what color is the sky there because you're not helping, you're not making any sense and the people who read my blog are not interested in this sort of made-up trash. I am not going to put on lipstick, I am not making biscuits and you know as well as I do that I don't sit on the porch and have a drink on a Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, Ruby, you are never guest blogging for me again and don't even bother coming around unless you've got Maxine with you and y'all have a plan and some good looking men to take us out somewhere pretty-clothes-and-bra-worthy.

In the meantime, I suppose I will just resign myself to writing all my own blogs.

Check here tomorrow. Maybe you'll find a recipe.

And a link to PayPal.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Like Howard, I Am Going To An Island


My birthday approaches. It is one week from today and I have written way too much about the angst my birthday causes me and this is not going to be about that.
I promise.
Because I have a plan in place and that is to quietly slip away without fanfare on Friday and get my almost fifty-four year old ass to Dog Island for a week by myself where I will celebrate my own damn birthday in my own damn way and I have no idea what that means but it might involve skinny-dipping and it might involve sobbing into my pillow and making frantic phone calls to my husband, begging him to come and get me and to PLEASE BRING A CAKE, MY GOD IT'S MY BIRTHDAY AND THERE'S NO CAKE!
I hope not.
I have spent a week on Dog Island by myself before and as I've said, it was glorious except for one night when I had some sort of horrible anxiety attack and felt more alone than I've ever felt in my life and it was just this side of madness. But, I'm sure I'll be fine and I truly, really want to go.
I think. I'm pretty sure.
See- wouldn't you assume that by the time a person reaches the age of fifty-four she'd know her own mind? Especially if she's a self-actualized, inner-searching person who takes her psychic temperature at least fifty times a day?
Yeah. Perhaps that's my problem.
That and the fact that I'll be going over all by myself via hired boat ride, meaning there will be no Mr. Moon to carry my stuff and get the car running if it's somehow quit doing that while sitting up on that sand dune where it lives and he won't be there to fix toilets (and I swear, every time we go out there he has to rebuild a toilet) and he won't be there to make sure the poltergeist doesn't get really evil and try to kill me instead of just moving all my stuff around and turning on random appliances at random times and also, here we are in the middle of hurricane season and WHAT IF A HURRICANE COMES UP SUDDENLY AND NO ONE WARNS ME?
See? I'm crazy.
But I just reread my Howard Sprague post that I wrote on the island last March and that made me feel a lot better.
I may be old but dammit, I CAN haul all my stuff by myself and I will get that car started and there are two toilets and one of them is bound to work and I will have a radio and the internet and I'm going to have a fabulous time.
I'm going to get all my stuff unloaded and put away and it'll be completely peaceful and the water will be beautiful and I'm going to take such good care of myself and write and read and walk and do yoga and if I have an anxiety attack-well, I'll just have one.
And I won't turn into Howard Sprague, either.
I'll just be me, celebrating myself.
Which right this second sounds like heaven because the little room where I write is being painted by my son-in-law with a power sprayer that sounds as if every mosquito in the state of Florida is trying to burst into my brain, and the train just went by and I could use a little peace and tranquility and there's a heap of that to be found on Dog Island where you can sometimes go for days without seeing another human being or even a dog, for that matter.
There will be birds, though, and the tide rising and falling and clouds building and moving and cicadas singing and humming and maybe I'll see dolphins.
Maybe.
But right now I have a thousand things to do and I need to go take a friend to get a mammogram and get to the store and it's so nice to think of this time next week when all I'll have to do is...
Whatever I want.
And I can bake my own damn cake.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Summer Feels Like



This is what the weatherman says:
Temperature tomorrow will be 94 degrees with a feel-like temperature of one hundred
and eleven.

And I say
Oh, give it a rest.

And I say
Temperature tomorrow will be July
With a feel-like pleasure of
The knife slipping so easily between the sweet fruit of the ripest peach
And it's baby-skin peel.

And I say
That the temperature tomorrow will be full-on summer
With a feel-like heat you can not imagine,
Sweat washing eyes with stinging salt
During the walk, while pulling the spent squash vines,
While picking the tomatoes, their perfect round
Weight as they fall
Like fate
Into my palm.

And I say
That the temperature tomorrow will be
Full moon hot and
Have a feel-like temperature of
Heaven when I drink that glass of cold ice water
While looking out at the summer phlox
Blooming pink in clusters as big
As a small child's head,
The mango plant reaching far
Beyond its pot
And what am I to do with it?
I will wonder again.

And I say that the temperature tomorrow will be Figs Are Ripe! and
Will have a feel-like
Knowledge
That when I boil them in sugar syrup with lemon
They will grow translucent with sugar and with heat
And that the hot, sterile jars waiting on the counter
Will receive them and that after I process them
In boiling (feels-like...boiling) water
The lids will snap down and pop
And I will mark them on their lids with the month and year,
My hair curling up around my skull in the heat and I know
We will eat those figs sometime in the winter
And then no matter the temperature,
It will feel-like
Summer
Again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Secret Message of Wallpaper



There's an old abandoned shack on my walking route that I pass every day.
It's a small place, more cabin than house, and the ceilings can't be more than six and a half feet high, as if built for a smaller people but probably constructed that way more out of economy than for the comfort of a race of short-statured people.
The place is almost hidden in the summer woods, more apparent in the less-leafy winter growth, and even though it's only steps from the road, I imagine hundreds of people drive by it every day on Highway 59 without even noticing it. I never did until I began walking that particular route.
There's something about an old, abandoned house that draws us to it and yet at the same time, is somehow forbidding. Too many horror movies perhaps, and also the possibility that something is alive in the house, whether critter or crackhead.
But I have found this little shack impossible not to explore a little bit. I don't trust the floors so it's mostly been a matter of sticking my head in the door and through open windows and what I've seen is completely unremarkable and yet has touched my heart.
It is, as I've said, small with low ceilings. It was made all of wood and some of the rooms are falling in on themselves and there's nothing left in the house at all beyond what animals have dragged in to nest with.
The one remarkable fact of the cabin is that someone, some woman, no doubt, took the time to put wallpaper up on those wooden walls a long, long time ago. Almost every room that I can see has tattered and peeling floral wallpaper, and I can't help but think of the woman who put it up in those rooms. No bathroom, no electricity in there, ever, I am sure, just wood floors and wood walls of rough planks, and yet some woman, some wife, some mother found the money and the time and the energy to put that wallpaper up, so many years ago.
That wallpaper just breaks my heart.
I pass another old place on my walk. It's a trailer in an eyesore of a trailer park right across from the post office. It's at the exact opposite end of the street where the little falling-in cabin with wallpaper is and people are actually living in that trailer.
I don't know what those people's story is but they don't seem to go to work and they don't seem interested in picking up their trash and they don't seem to ever take their clothes off the line as if the very act of hanging them up there a few months ago completely wore out their capability of having anything more to do with that particular activity.
I shouldn't judge but of course I'm human and I do, and I think to myself when I pass by, Jesus God, couldn't they at least pick up the beer bottles in their yard? I've never seen inside the trailer nor do I want to, but I have a strong feeling that no one's put wallpaper up in there and it would be a complete waste of time for anyone to do that anyway; put up wallpaper on the walls of that nasty trailer which probably can't cost more than two-hundred dollars a month to rent, and the landlord's getting away with murder if he gets that.
I lived in a trailer very similar to that one once, but it was my trailer and I had a deep affection for it and I kept it swept and put up pictures and shelves and kept children and cats and potted plants in it with a good degree of comfort and coziness.
I never put up wallpaper though. I never even thought of it.
But some woman who lived in that little cabin fifty years or so ago did.
And I wonder so many things about her. Was she black? Was she white? Did she have children? What did her husband do and where did he work? Did she sew quilts of scraps by the light of a kerosene lamp at night? Did she have a shelf of books? Did she have a wood stove to cook on? Did she have a garden, did she plant flowers? Where did she get her water from and did she set a vase of flowers on the wooden table where she rolled out her biscuits?
Where did she go when she left?
I walk by the little place almost every day and some days I don't even register its presence, but it's there, whether I notice it or not. It's just sitting there, its bones of wood falling back to the earth, abandoned by the people who lived in it, by the woman who made its walls beautiful with flowers that didn't wilt or fade and which still, to this day, give testament to someone who cared, someone who needed beauty, even in a tiny cabin on a patch of ground in Lloyd, Florida a long time ago.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do We Love Her Or Do We Hate Her?


All right. There are those of you who might say, "Uh, Ms. Moon, why are writing about celebrities these days? Have you no life of your own?"

And I would point out that I have only RARELY written about celebrities and that post about Angelina Jolie hardly counted at all because let's face it, it was really about the whole totemic zeitgeist of motherhood and goddess worship and stuff like that. It wasn't really about Angelina.
You got that, right?

So yes, one of my many, many despicable traits is that I sometimes check out a few things online that might not strictly have anything to do with anything that matters in this entire universe but sometimes, ya hit gold.

You see that woman in that picture? You know who that is? That is Helen Mirren and she is almost 63-years old and supposedly, that is her real and actual body that she got not through surgery or through Photoshop or even a head transplant! No! She got it through working out at a gym! Or, as the article says, "with the only work to transform her toned body having been carried out during gruelling hours in the gym."

Okay. So they spelled "grueling" wrong. Big deal. If that's Helen Mirren's real body, I am completely and utterly in awe.

I am also sort of pissed because what if she DID achieve that enviable muscle tone, those beautiful abs by dint of nothing but hard work and diet? Doesn't this mean that anyone can achieve the same?

Damn.

Of course, Ms. Mirren has never had a child which I suspect has more than a little to do with that perfect belly of hers. No stretch marks, no...okay. I just don't even want to talk about the ravages of pregnancy today. Really. I don't.

And I'm not going to.

But I will say that honestly, on the one hand I am just so proud that a human of my species can have such a fine looking body at the age of 63 and on the other hand, I am wailing with despair because really- how HIGH can this bar be pushed? It's comforting to realize that after a certain age no one expects you to show up in a bikini looking like....
That.

Until now.

I suppose my ambivalence here can be summed up best by saying Helen Mirren is awe-full.

And I mean that in the very, very most loving and respectful way.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Having Strange Dreams While Awake


I feel strange today. Just floating on some sort of non-feeling wisp of a cloud. I have read, I have walked, I have done yoga, I have washed my car.
I never wash my car.
I seem to want to do mindless things. I've been listening to NPR most of the day, same as usual, but it isn't touching me. It's just words. Banks, stocks, ethanol, McCain saying he knows how to end wars.
So what?
The truth is the truth and whatever is happening in this world is happening, no matter what anyone says.
I loaded up some bags of recycle stuff to take down the road to Wacissa. Our trash place here in Lloyd is no longer accepting recycle, only household trash, so we're just stacking the bags of paper and glass and plastic and cans in the garage and I thought I'd make a dent in them today and then go on down to the end of the road and pick blueberries.
At the empty store on the corner, half a block from my house, the parking lot was filled with DOT cars. Filled. And people were walking around, talking on phones, measuring things. I didn't even ask them what they were doing, I just made the turn and drove on.
I got to the recycle place to find that they don't accept glass. Only plastic, paper, cardboard and cans.
Oh well. I threw the glass in the trash after sorting the cans and the plastic, throwing the papers and cardboard in the correct containers while the attendant leaned on his truck and watched me. Then I got in my car and drove down to find the blueberry place closed.
I didn't really care. Driving home mindlessly was pleasant, although part of me wondered if I should really be driving.
I wonder what in the world is going on with me? Am I losing my mind? Am I burnt out and shutting down? Is this really just a dream?
I am writing this. I have split peas simmering on the stove for soup. I have washed the car.
I am still here.
I feel strange.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ruby And Maxine Are Ready For Their Big Date

It was a glorious weekend with as much music and frivolity as I had imagined it would be.
Mr. and Ms. Moon did not go to bed until after midnight THREE NIGHTS IN A ROW!
I'm sure the very foundations of the earth are being shifted as we speak.
If you can feel the ground trembling beneath your feet you may blame it on me and my wild, wild weekend.
Last night the four of us, Mr. Moon, Mr. Williamson, Lis and I, all gussied up and piled into the 1972 Cutlass for its (re)maiden voyage to the coast for dinner. With the top down. With the wind washing over us in great waves of joy and abandon.
Down around Sopchoppy, it began to rain so we pulled over and the fellows put the top up which made it much quieter and cozier (sort of like being in a tent, except hurtling down the highway at sixty miles an hour) while outside the lightening flashed as the mighty American car carried us to Panacea where we ate dinner at Angelo's.
It was over eleven years ago that the four of us made this same trip in the same car to celebrate a special birthday of Lis's. It was a night we'd never forgotten. Mr. W. gave his wife black pearls. We were all happy and beautiful and we could not quit smiling.
And last night, we got to recapture that night and it was all we'd hoped for. The Cutlass ran like a dream. We got to eat outside over the water at Angelo's. Lis and I renamed ourselves- Ruby and Maxine- and the men had their own secret names.
After we'd eaten so much we could not eat even one more sweet scallop, we drove home through the piney woods down the very dark back roads from Panacea to Lloyd and when we got home we ate key lime pie and agreed that it had just been the very best night.
I think we get a few of these special nights in our lifetimes and we keep them like individual pearls, strung on silk, that we can put on and wear in our memories. We fondle them and cherish them. We put them away in a velvet pouch in our hearts. They are there forever.
And we can add to them, one lustrous, shining pearl at a time, each one more valuable than the last because as we get older, we know how precious, how few they really are and they shine brighter and more fiercely because they are so rare.
Look and Ruby and Maxine.
They know.
Such a simple thing. Four friends, dressed up and driving through the night in a 1972 Cutlass to the coast where they will eat and toast to the friendship, to the love, to the night, to the beauty of being together again as the water flows beneath them and the lightening flashes in the not-so distant sky and the eyes gleam and the smiles never quit and not for one moment does any one take any of it for granted.
The joy must never be taken for granted.
Just ask Maxine and Ruby. They'll tell you.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Educating Our Young



The youngest daughter, Jessie, and I were hanging out with the cake-baker/sanity-maker (and let's just call her Lis because, well, that's her name) while she was getting ready for a full day of rehearsals and gigs and we were watching her pick out her jewels because Lis is that sort of woman. She wears jewels. The more sparkly the better. Red jewels are her particular favorite, I think, although she is sure to spread out her jewel-love to all the jewels in her treasure box of jewels in order to prevent feelings of insecurity and divisiveness amongst the jewels.
She loves her jewels and they love her.
Lis is what I'd call a girly-girl. She wears petticoats and she wears skirts and she doesn't sweat. I have mentioned all of this before, but it's worth repeating. The girl does not sweat. I've seen her playing on a stage outside in August wearing the petticoat and the skirt and the pretty crocheted sweater, singing and playing guitar and NOT SWEATING. I'll be just sitting there watching her, drinking iced tea and wearing a sleeveless linen dress with sweat pouring from my body and that's before I have a hot flash.
It's like Lis has discovered some secret of girliness that I have yet to learn. Perhaps it's the jewels. I don't know.
Anyway, Lis said a sentence with the word "hell" in it while she was getting ready and she apologized because Jessie was in the room. We laughed and I said, "Jesus, Lis, our DOGS say hell."
It's funny. When my oldest kids were young, I tried to pretend around them that I did not curse mainly because I really did not want to hear my two-year olds saying things like, "What the fuck?" if they spilled their milk or broke a crayon.
Some people think such language from a baby is cute but I tend to think it's just tacky.
Just my opinion.
But by the time Jessie, my fourth child, was in high school, I gave up any semblance of pretense and just started letting it all fly, including the f-word and she thinks it's funny and sometimes she curses too.
Which brings us back to Lis and the apology for saying hell.
Because Lis loves to curse too. This girly-girl woman with the petticoats and sparkly jewelry who does not sweat can throw around the salty language as well as anyone I know, which is one of the many, many reasons I adore her.
So the three of us were laughing at the silliness of Lis apologizing for such an innocent word and I said, "Jessie is already a member of the Women Who Curse Club."
Lis said, "We should have an initiation dinner. Wouldn't that be fun?"
And I said, "Yeah. We would say things like, 'Hey? Where's that fucking bitch waitress? Hey bitch, bring me some more motherfuckin' tea.' And so forth."
We thought that was pretty funny but of course we'd have to tell the waitress what was going on and invite her to curse with us and then leave her a really good tip because we're that kind of women. We may use profanity but we are considerate. We're southern women, for goodness sake!
I think it's important for the older women to pass on their wise ways to the younger ones. Don't you? Things like how to wear make fig preserves, biscuits and martinis, how to breastfeed and crochet, how to wear jewels and petticoats, and of course how to use the word fuck in all its many permutations and glorious forms.
And, like most things we hand down to our children, it is best to learn from example.
So Lis and I are just doing our fucking job the best we fucking can and it makes us proud, watching Jessie grow up and being beautiful and smart and funny and such a great dancer and mandolin player who can make fresh peach sorbet from scratch and who is becoming a Woman Who Can Curse.
It makes me a little sad that my older children have had to learn to use profanity from the streets, which is the way I learned it too, because really, I think it's best for children to learn from the positive and loving role models they may be fortunate enough to have in their lives.
Like their mamas and women who wear sparkly jewelry and petticoats.
Jessie is so lucky to have us.
She fucking knows it, too.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Weekend Weather Report


So some days life is not a bowl of cherries but instead a wooden bowl of succulent, home-grown, really ripe tomatoes.
It's amazing what good friends, a clean house, and a weekend full of the promise of music and mascara can do for a girl's spirit.
Let's all dance.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Random, Unimportant Bits. Brown Paper Bag Day, For Sure


I find it funny that so many men bloggers use the dark (often black) background for their blogs. It reminds me of perusing the videos in the olden days at the video store. If a film had a dark-colored case, as apposed to a light one, it was most definitely a man movie.

I think John McCain is too old to be president. I myself, at the advanced age of almost 54, know for sure that my brain is NOT what it used to be. It would be okay if McCain USED to be Einstein, but I don't think he was.

Some days crazy just ain't funny at all.

Even yoga teachers sometimes need back surgery.

Sometimes yoga teachers need back surgery and are thus out of commission when their students need them most.

It's difficult to make myself do yoga on my own. But not impossible.

I think that if asked, one should tell one's doctor that one has an allergy to Codeine because in my opinion, Codeine is an inferior drug and if you need pain relief and say you're allergic to Codeine, you'll get something better.
I say this even though I haven't had an opportunity to get pain meds in years and years and years.
I still think it's true.

The writing in "men's" magazines is so far superior to that in "women's" magazines that it's astounding as well as embarrassing. And it makes me pissed off.
My theory is that men save all their energy for writing by never changing out the empty roll of toilet paper for the full one which is one foot away.

The writing in the Oxford American Magazine (which works equally well for men as for women) is just plain astounding. Mostly.

Getting a subscription for a magazine is one of the best-values, money-wise, in the entire world.

Beware of establishments where they can take a photograph of your aura and sell you products which will help your chi be less obstructed. Seriously. If you must frequent them for some reason, get your business done and get out as soon as possible to avoid any aura or chi-related damage.

I'm thinking my chi may be obstructed.

And that if you took a picture of my aura you wouldn't want to look at it.

Mop your house with this: water, a little bit of white vinegar, and a dash of Murphy's Oil soap.
You won't be sorry. Besides making your house smell lovely and clean, I think it may have chi-unobstruction properties.

I'd get a tattoo but I can't get drunk enough to do it without passing out.

It's not fear of pain, either. It's fear of regret.

Click on the picture of the paper bag above and you can read about who painted it.
Yes! Painted it!

If I could paint really well, I doubt I'd paint pictures of paper bags.

We'll never know, though, will we?

The thing I'm best at in yoga?
Tree pose. Without a doubt. I can stand in tree pose for days. I'm pretty sure.

I need to get busy.

You probably do too.

Namaste, y'all, and feel free to offer me whatever you've got in your brown paper bag today. It could be like a swap meet.

Or swamp meat.

I don't know.

Whatever. Whichever.

It's all cool unless you let that chi get kinked up because man, if you do, you've got a hell of a mess on your hands. So be careful. Drink lots of water. I think that can help.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

And It Would Be So Nice To See You There


For you local folks, please note that the cake-baker/sanity-maker is also an insanely good musician and she and her insanely good musician husband will be playing at the Warehouse on Saturday night.
Come on out and let's dance.

The Closet Where The House Cleaning Fairy Does NOT Live


As I have confessed before, I hate house cleaning. And as I have pointed out before, this is not a great thing if you're a housewife, which I am.
I realize that almost no one really enjoys house cleaning, although I have heard it said that Virgos do. I wonder if this is true. I also wonder if people still dabble in the ancient astrological arts the way we used to. I was never a good hippie when it came to astrology. I mean, I knew my "sign" (Leo) although a friend of mine who really believes that stuff did my chart once and pointed out that really, I'm far more Cancer than I am Leo because of my moons and stuff. See- I never got that. What house is your moon in? Well, my Moon is right here in the house in Lloyd.
But if people don't do astrology anymore, what has taken the place of "What's your sign?" as the very worst and lamest pick-up line in bars? Since I'm old and never go to bars anymore (and dammit, I miss bars) I haven't heard any good pick-up lines lately. Well, Mr. Moon might try one out on me now and then, but we're usually in the kitchen, not a bar, and he knows my sign so his lines are more along the lines of "Can I make you a martini?" which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, depending on who washes the dishes.
And whether or not I've been doing housework.
Because nothing, NOTHING in this world makes me as crazy and uninterested in romance as house cleaning.
Oh, I love a clean house. Who doesn't? And if there were a house-cleaning fairy, I'd hunt that bitch down and force her (him?) to come live in the little closet under my stairway. I'm pretty sure that something's living there already because the wrapping paper I keep stored in there gets shredded up and there is suspicious poop-looking material on the floor sometimes, but I'd clean it up and put in a cot for a house-cleaning fairy.
You bet!
Because I just hate cleaning.
It's not the work as much as the fact that every person in this house plus the four dogs contribute to the dirt, mess, dust, disorder and nastiness and yet, I'm the only person who regularly does anything about any of it.
I will say that yesterday one of my living-here-daughters cleaned a bathroom and the other living-here-daughter actually put in a lot of hours doing things like dusting and organizing and even scrubbing a rug and cleaning the stair risers with MAGIC ERASER (and as I have also said before, that shit is MAGIC!) and they look about ten thousand times better than they have since we've moved in here over four years ago.
But back to my bitching.
I worked yesterday for approximately twelve hours and all I got cleaned was my room and two bathrooms. Of course "my" room is also my husband's room (we're not THAT old) and I spent hours of that time cleaning out my closet.
And my bathroom, which is my favorite room in the house, takes hours on its own because it has wood furniture in it, as well as a tub AND a shower.
So it took me a long time and of course I didn't have the air conditioning on and I kept having nuclear melt-down hot flashes and I was also doing laundry and by the time I was through with the scrubbing, sweeping, dusting, wood-polishing, mopping and laundry, I was not only exhausted, but in a very, very bad mood.
When the man got home I was still in the middle of it and I took one look at him and said, "What are you doing home?"
He said, "I could leave."
I said, "So could I."
See what I mean about house cleaning and romance?
The reason I'm doing all this crazy cleaning is that the cake-baker/sanity-maker and her husband are coming to visit this week and it's richly ironic that I'm cleaning for her because we fell in love with each other, me and the cake-baker/sanity-maker, one night when a mutual friend called us both "sluts of housekeepers." Yep, that's what she said. Standing in my house.
The cake-baker/sanity-maker and I looked at each other and the birds began singing and the stars started shining and that was it. We knew we were destined for forever-love.
And the mutual friend, realizing her incredible social blunder said, "But you're both great cooks!" and a romance was born and we no longer speak to the mutual friend.
And when we visit each other we always say things like, "Now I better not get one whiff of Fabuloso when I walk in that door," and so forth, but we always clean our houses when the other is visiting.
And put flowers by the bed. I'm sort of surprised we don't throw rose petals on the sheets.
And THEN we make each other fantastic feasts and bake crazy good cakes and the men shake up martinis and we dine by candle-light.
In our beautiful, clean houses.
And we frequently make a toast to the mutual friend whom we don't talk to anymore for bringing us together.
And that's what we'll be doing this weekend, my friend the Taurus and me the Leo, and our husbands, of course, and there will be no Virgos involved unless the house cleaning fairy which does not live in my house is one.
Right here. Where the Moons are in Lloyd and the sun is in July and the house will be clean.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Picture Is In Our Minds

For some reason, I can't seem to get Angelina Jolie off my mind. Not just Angelina, of course, but also her children, all of them as preternaturally beautiful as she is, as her man is. It's almost as if all six of them were fated to be a family; perhaps they are aliens or other-worldly creatures like nymphs or mermaids, beings that don't really belong on this earth with the rest of us but somehow are.
They have gathered together into a family, pulled together by this woman from all over the world. She went to this country and gathered one baby, then another, found a father for the children, found another baby, made a baby with the man, I can't remember all the details of this myth.
And now she's lying in a hospital in Nice in France, and I keep thinking of her there. I imagine (and this is my story, my imagining) that all of the nurses in that hospital are nuns and that in their secret Christ-loving hearts they feel they were put here on earth to deliver the freshest fruits and warmest breads and sweetest milky drinks to this woman, this goddess, this mythological mother as she grows her babies inside of her. They bring her food and and they take her pulse and they nod happily as her abdomen swells and swells with the life inside of her. They probably all laugh with delight when the babies turn and kick inside, lazy punches that make the skin of the mother dance from the movement within. She is probably the most gracious patient they've ever had, this Angelina woman who is tragically and unbelievably beautiful, even now at this point in pregnancy.
I wonder if these nun nurses surreptitiously finger the silk of the gowns Angelina wears, the flowing soft gowns that barely register on the skin, they are so fine, so light. I wonder if the father flirts with them a little bit, just enough to make them scurry to the chapel to stare at their god on his cross, suffering and dying, to pray and try to remember just why it is they married god and not a man when so obviously, at least one woman was able to do both.
Outside the hospital, the photographers and journalists swarm, probably eating stale bread and drinking cold cups of bitter coffee, always waiting for the father to bring some of the children to see their mother, their cameras at the ready, their bulky equipment, their heavy burdens of the responsibility of delivering the pictures, the news of arrivals of the father, the children, the babies.
And inside, all is peaceful as the mother lies on her bed, those perfect lips, those huge hands and feet, those babies inside her, growing big enough to come out and play with their perfect siblings who have all the colors of all the people on the planet, the most perfect family in the world, perhaps; this or any other.
She is waiting and last year she lost her own mother and I am certain she is thinking of that woman as all women do when they are about to give birth, their mothers, both the real ones they have or have lost and the mothers they wish they had had, a different sort of myth, someone who can take away any pain, who can comfort any fear, who can calm waters and birth pains with one slow caress of the hand, who will touch a daughter's face when her time is at hand who will whisper, "Sssh, sssh, it's fine, be calm, my beautiful girl. It will soon be over, you will have your babies in your arms and you will be so happy."
And I think of those other children, the ones of the already-born part of the family, the black and brown and white ones and I know how much they must miss their mother, that woman who is so strong she can carry two of them at a time on her skinny hips, her thin arms around them like bands of love and protection. I think of the father, how hard he must be working to keep all the children happy, protected from the cameras, the lights, the prying eyes as the mother grows the babies in safety.
I think of the mother, lying in a bed, dreaming of what? Her own mother, all the places she will be taking her family, being patient, being a patient, letting the nun nurses tend to her.
But mostly I think of those babies inside her, this moment of their lives perhaps the most perfect when they do not have to share her with their siblings, their father, or the world who think they own her.
No, for this moment, she is all theirs and why in the world would they want to come out?
And why in the world do I think of them at all?
Because they are myth, they are Father, they are Mother, they are the children of the world, they are beautiful, they are loved, they are not what they are but they are what they are to each of us, that myth that humans need in order to believe that we are speeding towards another existence, one where everyone is safe and held tightly, loved and fed and cherished in the softest light, no matter our color or circumstances of our births.
I can't stop thinking of them, the children, the man, the mother, as I approach another birthday, not knowing where I'm going, unsure of where I've been, growing older and feeling more useless, more anxious with each passing day.
I think back on the days when I was ripe with child, waiting for a new life to begin and although I was no myth, although I was no goddess, I was, somewhere safe in my mind, and it was there I had a mother, that Mother, that myth, who stroked my face, who calmed my fears, who said, "Shhh, shhh, be calm, my beautiful girl, all is well, soon you will be holding your baby in your arms and all will be well," and I clung to that thought until the moment came when I, too, was a mother, the Mother, not a myth, but a real one born of blood and flesh, delivered of perfect babies.
I greeted them with cries of delight, pouring from my mouth, my perfect mother's mouth, and I think of Angelina's lips, how they will move and change when she calls to her new children, when she becomes Mother again, her long arms reaching out to hold them, long arms and strong enough to hold two, and the nun nurses will cross themselves and smile to one another.
The Mother will have been delivered, the babies will have made her myth again.
We need them, the other-worldlies, the unknowable, the unreachable, the perfect, the beautiful.
We have always needed them, the mermaids, the nymphs, the unicorns, the dragons, the father, the son, the holy ghost but mostly the Mother as she cries out, as she strokes the face, as she lies in wait, her body that perfect temple of life.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Flying My Freak Flag


Some days I am so awash with happy chemicals- all of them natural and self-produced, I assure you- that very little annoys me. Things are as the should be. The small things are the small things and I know it and I don't sweat them. It's all good.

On other days, however, when for whatever reason (and none that I can put my finger on) the chemicals flowing through my body are not made of sparkles and fairy dust but something more along the lines of oh, the black, sludgy stuff that sticks in the bottom of an oil barrel before it's refined.

But not as valuable.

And on those days, EVERYTHING annoys me, especially when people say things like "Don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff," and, my especial favorite, "It's all good."

First off, it's definitely NOT all good, and besides that, it's the small stuff that'll make you crazy.

Or make me crazy, anyway.

Every thing is making me crazy today. Even myself.

No, especially myself. Because I know that nothing is different today than it ever is. The dogs poop in the house when it's raining, drug companies are marketing cholesterol drugs to eight-year olds, the stock market keeps tanking, and darn it, my clothes that I started hanging on the line at seven-thirty this morning got soaking wet in the rain (which I am still unbelievably grateful for) because I went to town to do some work for my husband, requiring me to take them all down, haul their heavy asses in and put them BACK in the washing machine to spin and then put in the dryer.

Oh, big deal you big whiny baby.

But even if I am a big, whiny baby (and I am) things are still just fucked up every where.

I don't trust Obama. Okay? He's already going back on his word about things that may not seem real important, but sort of are. The financing thing? Whatever. But saying he'll support federal money going to faith-based initiatives is pissing me off. Can we please try to separate church and state? Huh? Or what about his reversal on the bill that would offer retroactive immunity to communications companies for letting the government use them to spy on our very own citizens without their knowledge?

Isn't that sort of big?

Or is that the small stuff?

McCain is saying that the surge worked. Yippie! And that he'll get rid of the deficit by guaranteeing victory in Iraq and Afganistan. Is this man on drugs?

If he isn't, he should be.

It goes on and on. And of course it's going on and on all the time and sometimes I can just ignore it and go blissfully on down the path of sweetness and light and some days, I just want to crawl in bed and pull the covers up and read Archie comic books with a flashlight.

Or cry myself to sleep.

All I know is, is that the guy down the road whom I have admired from afar for so long for having the bravery to display three flags every day- the American flag, the Florida state flag and the rainbow gay pride flag- is now down to ONE flag. And that would be the gay pride one.

Honey, I'd like to say to him, I know how you feel. Sometimes you gotta show what you know. You have to be who you are. You have to put away the symbols of the things you aren't real sure about and fly the symbols of the ones you are.

If I flew a flag today, it would probably have a vulture on it because that's what I feel like today- some old bad, ugly bird just waiting for the next thing to die so I can go pick at it.

Anyone know where I can get one of those babies? A tasteful flag with a vulture on it?

I'm sure my neighbors would appreciate that.

If they weren't sweating the small stuff, at least.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I'm home again in Lloyd and it was a lovely weekend on Dog Island. The funny thing about Dog Island is that a lot of people who have homes there only come down a few times a year and the Fourth of July is one of them.
We who have the luxury of living nearby know that the best months on the island are the fall and winter months when there is no one about and the temperatures allow more than early-morning and late-evening walks.
But amazingly, this Fourth of July was temperate. It was not incredibly hot and although storms passed to every side of us, we didn't get one drop of rain, although I wished we had. I love storms on the island, the wind whipping the pine trees and sea oats into a frenzy, its voice as it wails through the dunes a high, keening thing, making my little house a cozy nest, a safe place to be to watch nature have its way with the world.
The house next door to us on the west is almost never occupied. The people who own it live down in central Florida, which is funny, because that's where I went to high school, where I lived for some very formative years. They own a restaurant which is a regional landmark and I can tell from the way they act on the island that they don't get nearly enough ya-ya's out in their real life.
Bless their hearts.
The house to the east of us on the island is the home of a really incredible artist name Roger Leonard. He, as do many of the island residents, spends a few months in the summer time in more gentle and less broiling climes. So he wasn't home and it was strange, to walk past his house on the bay and not see a light on, but I'm sure that wherever he is, he's painting and probably thinking about the island. I sometimes never see Roger on the island, even if he's there, but sometimes I do. We might run into each other down at the beach at sunset and it's strange how even though we hardly know each other, we always seem to fall into conversation about some deep and meaningful stuff, the two of us. It's like we have no reason not to and so we do. I have another neighbor on the island that I feel the same way about and maybe it's because if you live on the island, you don't get a chance to have what we would call a social life and every interaction you have is fraught with all the meaning you don't leak out with bullshit stuff that happens in normal life and jobs and so forth. Let's face it- if you live by choice on a barrier island where there is no bridge and no cable and no decent drinking water, you really have a great need to spend a lot of time by yourself.
I'm planning to spend a week down there by myself for my birthday and this whole weekend I was thinking about that. I've spent a few weeks there by myself and it's always been wonderful, although I did have ONE night where I got the anxiety so bad I thought I might die and it was such a scary time that it still makes me take pause at the thought of going down there by myself but dammit, I'm going to risk it.
I'm going to take myself and a bunch of library books and my computer and my Worst Novel Ever Written to rewrite and food that I think I might want to eat and maybe some new strings of light I have stashed away from Target and by God I'm going to walk and do yoga and write and read and eat whatever I want and sleep whenever I want and watch every damn sunset and pray for a storm or two.
That's my plan.
My birthday plan.
I'll let you know how it goes, I'm sure.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Different Island, Once My Own

Back in 1994, the year my friend Sue died, I was alerted to the fact that I could rent an apartment on St. George Island for something like $350 a month.
Now even fourteen years ago, this was a terrific bargain, even taking into account the fact that what we’re calling an apartment here was actually two rooms and a bathroom in a cement block four-plex. But what the hell? It was right across the road from the Gulf of Mexico on St. George, which had not been completely ruined yet.
My two oldest children were basically living their own lives by then but my two youngest were around the ages of eight and five and definitely still under my wing so they became my little roommates there for the summer in that block apartment with its yard of foot-torturing gravel and sandspurs.
I decorated the apartment with Dollar Store Christmas lights and colorful fish to hang on the wall made in China of reed and cloth (which I still have and which hang on the wall here in my bedroom on Dog Island) and every time we’d come back to the apartment after a trip home to Tallahassee, I’d burn sage for some reason. There were no particular evil spirits in that place as far as I knew but perhaps I burned it to purify something inside of me and if so, it did no harm, at least.
Mr. Moon came down on weekends to join us and to fish and it was my first and still most prolonged experience with living at the beach.
I was in a strange state of grief that summer and still feeling the effects of Sue’s death which had been such a profoundly holy experience that I was in some holy state myself it seemed, my heart opened by grief and the brief glimpse of the certainty that in this life we are only sandwiched between birth and death and the existence of other states of being on each side of those portals.
I do indeed think now that that summer I spent in my little concrete home by the Gulf was a time of holiness and if sage was one of the sacraments, so were beer and rum and limes and chips and salsa and Jimmy Buffett whose music (and say what you will about it) was exactly what I needed at that moment in my life.
At the time, the children were not as entranced with the beach life as I was, although they look back at it now with great affection. I had to force them to accompany me to the beach every morning, their brown little bodies slathered in sunscreen, with our thermos jug of Raspberry Crystal Lite, our towels, our beach toys, our books. They much preferred staying inside with the air conditioning and the TV to watch old reruns of Lucy and The Brady Bunch (we had cable!) but they would go with me, albeit grudgingly, and we would float in the gentle waves and sing Jimmy Buffett songs and in the evenings we would walk the beach after supper, watching the dolphins make their slow return from the cut, west to east, rising to breathe with noisy exhalations, then falling silently back into the water beside us, so close and yet in a different universe entirely and as all of the walls between the universes had become blurred to me when I accompanied Sue to that place she went, I was more than aware of what all that meant and the dolphins rising into the land of air and falling back into the land of water beside me was somehow comforting.
That summer was when I first learned how much I loved living out of doors as much as possible. We’d brought a cheap plastic table down and set it up right beside the apartment and that was where I sat to eat, to read, and to write while the children watched TV inside or played house under the fronds of the palm tree in front of the complex. I sat at that table even if it was hot or buggy or dark and at night I burned citronella candles and I read or wrote by those.
I began to write on yellow legal tablets: poems, short stories, and letters. This was a year before I got my first computer and I took up my pens, my paper and my thoughts and I wrote with a vengeance and a wonder.
It was all the beginning of something or some things, even as others had ended. It felt, at the time, as if I were doing so very little- playing with the children, cooking our meals, reading, dancing, spending hours by the Gulf, crying, laughing, sleeping, writing poems, watching the stars at night including the great blur of the Milky Way, visible then on the relatively still-unlit beach, but looking back I see how very much I was doing.
I want to say I was healing, but I don’t know if this is true. I think instead, it was more a time of integrating Sue’s passage than healing from her illness and death although I could be wrong.
We ended up renting an apartment in that little funky complex for three summers. The children were willing enough and they had come to love that island life, even if more for the ice cream shop they could walk to than the vast beauty of the ocean, the dunes, the sky, the birds. We journeyed to Apalachicola for shopping and adventures, to Jack Rudloe’s Marine Specimen’s Lab in Panacea to touch and learn about the sea creatures we saw on the beach, and we played bingo on Tuesday nights at the St. George fire station. One night Jessie won the jackpot and she used her winnings to buy herself her own pair of Panacea Nikes (rubber boots like the ones the workers in the seafood industry wore and which she coveted) at the store in East Point.
People came to visit us there in our little nest. My best friend from high school came and she and I (the kids stayed home with Dad that weekend) took ourselves skinny dipping late one night in the bath-water warm Gulf and we floated for hours under a full moon, talking about everything, sharing all the secrets we’d had no one to tell for all our years apart.
The older kids came with friends, my Liz of the West came and spent an enchanted weekend with us. We had adventures of one sort or another. We made friends with Wayne, who lived in another apartment, a sweet-hearted drunk who sat in front of the complex and drank beer all day and who watered my plants when I was away.
Our time there ended. Our view of the Gulf was obstructed by the construction of new tall skinny houses that tourists rented. The children developed friendships and interests in town they were loath to leave. The island became more crowded. I probably began to feel guilty “wasting” so much time doing nothing but hanging out on the beach, sleeping on a futon with my feet in the canned goods, sitting on the roof of the building next door, listening to the cicadas as they chorused their deafening song from one tree to the next until the song had encircled the entire island as the sun set, painting the sky and water with rosy gold and the moon rose, as my heart opened to a sort of joy it could never have been opened to if Sue’s death hadn’t broken it in two.
Looking back, I see that those summers, especially the first, had as much to do with who I am now as almost anything. And as I am writing this, on a yellow legal tablet, sitting beside the water, knowing that I am going to send these words out into the universe via a phone line and a computer, I am amazed.
Listen- there is nothing that is meaningless. There is nothing that involves water and air and children and words and sorrow and joy that is a waste of time.
And I still love Jimmy Buffett who managed to get me off my sorrowful ass and made me sing with my children in the warm green waters of the Gulf, our heads in the air universe, our bodies in the water universe, surrounded no doubt by the great fish and smiling dolphins. They were there. We couldn’t always see them.
But they were there.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Island Mysteries

I am sitting on a porch with a slight breeze coming from the west, the water in front of me blue, but also green where the sandbar lies close to the surface, not unlike the colors on a globe, approximating what the earth looks like from space. I love sitting on this porch, watching the changes in the bay as the day goes from morning to afternoon, to evening, to night.
It seemed to take forever yesterday to get here. First one small crisis, then another, before we could leave. Finally we were packed and on the way but we had to stop in Medart for gas and coffee and then we stopped in Panacea for shrimp, right down the road from where I lived a long, long time ago with other crazy hippies in a falling-down house which was where I was living when I realized I was pregnant with my first child. That was a strange time in my life and one where I was as mystified and in despair as I have ever been, not knowing what steps I could possibly take to go from that sort of a life to a life where I could be a good mother.
That house had been at the beginning of a path and here I was, not a half mile away, so much further down it.

When we pulled up to the seafood place, another car pulled up at the same time and a woman got out of her car wearing a long skirt, a black shirt that showed friendly cleavage, and cute little sandals with tiny kitten heels.
“I think that’s Connie May Fowler,” I told my husband and he said, “Really?”
“I do,” I said.
When we all got up to the porch of the seafood place, the seafood people greeted her, “Miss Connie! How are you?” and I knew it was her for sure.
My husband stuck his hand out and said, “Hey. We live in your old house.”
And we do. My beloved house in Lloyd was hers before her divorce and we bought it from her ex-husband. She and I have spoken a tiny bit via e-mail and I introduced myself to her and she was charming and said, “So nice to meet, not in cyberspace.”
We chatted for a moment about how her next book has that house as a character in it. She’d told me this in an e-mail about a year ago, and since then, I've had curiosity about how this book will turn out and also a small and unworthy bit of resentment because it's my house now, that beautiful old place beneath the oaks.
But listen- I know that a writer will use any damn thing she wants in her work because every thing and every one is part of the stuff of the art she makes.
In fact, her telling me about using the house in a book last year is what prompted me to start my own book about a frustrated wanna-be writer who is living in a house that a “real” writer used to live in and who is writing about it.
Fiction upon fiction, dancing with truth, all living in the same house- these things get crowded and complicated.
The book’ll be done by fall,” she said and what I didn’t tell her is that with any luck, the first draft of my book (Worst Novel Ever Written) will be done this weekend. No threat to the success of her book, anyway.
We got our shrimp and left, saying good-bye, and I said to stop by any time she wanted, in Lloyd, but I doubt she ever will. The house has become part of her past in essence of reality and part of her future in essence of fiction and it takes a long time to get from one place to another and it hardly ever pays in circumstances like that to backtrack, or so it seems to me.
It had been nice to meet her, finally, after reading her books, after living in her house. She looked exactly the way I thought she would, exactly the way an author should- pretty and smart and a little bit Bohemian. A woman with her own style, a woman with charm and perfectly painted toenails.
I wonder, though, if she looked at me and thought, “What is this woman doing, living in that house, under those oak trees?”
I was wearing overalls, and not the cute linen kind but blue denim ones that I’d put on that morning to pick the garden in and had never taken off. The kind that prompted a man at the dock on the island to ask me in a deep Georgia accent, “You a farm girl?”
“Yes,” I answered him, after some consideration. “Yes I am.”
It seemed as true as anything I know.
But then again, I’m on an island where it’s hard sometimes to distinguish between what is land, what is air, what is sea, and even if you can, it's changing all the time as the tide rises and falls, all under the mysterious pull of the moon as it travels around us, as the water is pulled into the air by the sun as we move around it.
It’s all so mysterious, this pulling and tugging, this constant changing from one thing to another, our very essence being transformed all the time.
I feel it now, this mysterious process, and I use words to try and define it like the sea uses waves to define the shore, one of us far more successful than the other in its task.
Can people change their essence the way water can change into air? Can mothers become writers, can writers become mothers? What sun is it that pulls us from one form to another, one path to another?
I have no idea and I hear thunder now, rolling from the west, and I will probably sit here and think about it all, watching the bay change, watching the day change, and I will be changing too, but I am not sure how.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Island, Ahoy!

All righty then. After we pack up everything we're going to need to eat, wear, drink, read and write on/with for the next four days and load it into the truck and the man gets the boat ready and we drive to Lanark and we load the boat and we make the small voyage to the island and unload the boat and load the Jeep and drive to the house and unload the stuff and put it all away and open up the house and open a beer, this is what I'll be looking at.
Phew!
Makes me tired just thinking about it, but that's okay because once we're there, it's all good.
Unless someone gets a rash or steps on a sting-ray or a piece of glass or something but I'm hoping none of that happens.
I plan to spend a lot of time reading, a fair amount of time napping, do some early-morning walks and watch a bunch of sunsets, weather permitting.
And I'm about to finish up writing what I can only describe as the World's Worst Novel but it will be DONE and then perhaps I'll start rewriting it or else I'll just take a deep breath and delete the entire motherfucking thing, but either way I'll have finished another book and that's something.
And we'll eat. In fact, I should be out there in that garden right this red hot second, picking lettuces and tomatoes and okra to take with us because I passed right through that produce section at Publix yesterday. We'll stop for shrimp in Panacea on the way down and I'm thinking the man will definitely catch us some fish and if not, I have canned beans.
I believe I have this dial-up modem thing figured out. We'll see.
And if I do, I'll post from the island, which will be really cool and if I don't, I'll catch up on Sunday.
Happy 4th, y'all. Have fun. Be safe and don't forget your sunscreen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another Miracle!


Hi. My name is Ms. Moon and I'm a hypochondriac. In fact probably one of the world's BIGGEST hypochondriacs.

This may come as a surprise to those who know me because I NEVER, EVER talk about all the various illnesses I am certain, at any given time, that I'm dying of.

Now the reason I don't discuss my many and varied terminal (and they're ALL terminal-believe me, I'm a nurse) illnesses is twofold:
1. If I talk about them, they may become real.
2. If I talk about them, someone might say, "Yeah. You should see a doctor about that."
And the problem with that is, my mental illness concerning doctors and the medical profession is even more extreme than the one where I think I have horrible diseases. I've had THAT neurosis my entire life and I have no idea why because I have no memory of ever being mistreated by a doctor in my childhood, although I do remember having to be held down by a nurse and my mother so that the doctor could give me a flu shot, and even two grown women had a difficult time keeping me still enough for the doctor to find his mark with the syringe.

Perhaps it's all related to needle terror but I don't think so because I'm not especially scared of needles any more. Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that as a child my mother occasionally had to go to the hospital (where they have doctors in white coats who give people shots!) for pneumonia, leaving me and my brother in the care of people we didn't know in the slightest and didn't trust in the least and oh yeah, there was that time she was in the hospital and my dad was off on a drunk and there was no food in the house except potatoes and the poor lady who'd been hired to stay with us pleaded with me (a child of what? five? four?) to let her take me and my brother to her house where there was actual food but I refused because WHAT IF MY MOTHER COULDN'T FIND US WHEN SHE GOT OUT OF THE HOSPITAL!? NO, JUST COOK SOME MORE POTATOES!

But you know, I still love potatoes so I don't know if that's a valid theory.

And probably, my hypochondria is somehow related to that, too, but really, you're not being paid as a therapist so I'll stop talking about it.

Except to say that when I start obsessing about all the deadly tumors I'm sure are growing in my body, I know that I'm not mentally quite well. I do have enough self-awareness to realize that the hypochondria is a symptom, not a disease in and of itself.

And it's all part of this generalized anxiety I get sometimes which I've talked about before, which I hate because it's such a buzzy, busy, never-ending, no rest-in-sight sort of mind warp.

I'd been suffering this anxiety/dying-of-at-least-three-diseases thing for days now and nothing was helping. Not the St. John's Wort, not the walks, not the yoga, nothing. Yesterday I thought I might explode from it, it was so bad.

And then...
Mr. Moon, who had been out of town on business, got home last night and as soon as I got my arms around him, the symptoms ceased. Just like a light switch had been thrown. Oh, I've had a few traces of it since then, but they usually come when I'm about to get a hot flash and then they disappear as soon as I begin to cool down, so essentially, I AM HEALED.

Which is odd because I've never been the sort of wife or woman who's well-being depended on the presence of her husband. In fact, I love my times alone.

But that's what happened last night. I was worried quite literally to tears and I'd lost every bit of any shred of a sense of humor and I was practically tripping on my anxiety and then he pulled up into the yard, I went out to greet him, we held each other tight, and boom, done.

Now I know that I'll go through the whole damn thing again. It'll happen. And I'll chastise myself and I'll try to talk myself out of it because really, the oddest thing is that I am not afraid to die. Hell, I never thought I'd live this long. And I've been with people when they died and it was not scary but actually beautiful and peaceful and so natural that it just doesn't seem like something to be afraid of. Although of course, what I'm really afraid of is that I'll have to go to a doctor who will want to see what's going on with my internal organs and get tests and shots and X-rays and MRI's and CT scans and more shots and the doctor will stand there with my folder open, my entire life and fate written in codes and numbers and values and he'll be afraid to look me in the eyes to tell me what all these numbers and values and codes mean and it'll really suck.

But for now, today, this minute, I'm not worried.

I know I'm dying in the sense that every one is dying from the moment of birth but I also know I'm alive and feeling pretty well and I'm not apt to have to see a doctor today.

And I wish with all my heart that by this point in my life I'd not be so crazy. So inclined to just go off into a sort of insanity which I feel I have no control over whatsoever, but just have to ride out and deal with until it's over.

Like labor.

Except instead of getting a beautiful new baby when it's over, I just regain the ability to function without constant fear which, in a way, means I've gotten my life back and so maybe I've given birth (once again!) to myself.

Which is a process I seem to have to go through over and over and over again.

And here I am now, the world as green as it can be, the crickets thrilling me with their trilling, the sun spilling like gold into patches of light in the backyard and leaking into my heart, which is open and happy again.

Healed, perhaps by love, perhaps by holding on to the sanest thing I know, which is a man who was crazy enough to marry me which I know makes no sense but is just one of those mysteries of life for which I am almost unbearably grateful.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Now, Back To Business


So back when I was still a hopeful young sprout and capable of things like researching agents and sending out query letters and so forth, I learned a lot. Mostly what I learned is that if you want to get a book published, you should write a book on how to get a book published.
Because obviously, everyone in the whole damn world has written a book and wants to see it in print. And then of course, up on the big screen. Starring Will Smith and Angelina Jolie.
Or in my case, Ashley Judd and, well, I never did figure out who the dude character would be played by.
I wanted to play the mama.
The first agent query letter I sent out was to a woman agent I'd actually seen speak. So I wrote my pathetic and humble little I-am-no-one-and-my-book-probably-sucks-but-wouldn't-you-like-to-see-it letter to her.
Frankly, I had two problems.
One, the theme of the letter was I am no one and my book probably sucks and the other was that I sent this query out about one week after 9/11 and the agent's office was in NYC.
Yep. I did.
And the letter I got back from her wasn't even addressed to me and got the title of my book wrong.
So I learned a few things.
After awhile, my query letters got better and I started getting REAL letters back from agents that sounded, if not exactly enthusiastic, at least slightly more positive. A few asked to see the manuscript. And so it went.
As I gained a little bit of confidence, I started having more fun with my query letters. I mean, why the hell not?
And the one that I finally wrote that actually got a LOT of attention, and finally an agent, although that didn't work out so well, was bizarrely over the top. For your amusement, I will copy part of it here.

Thanks for listening.

"From the pen of the newest undiscovered author comes a blockbuster read! In the tradition of Connie May Fowler, Lee Smith, Fannie Flagg and Rebecca Wells, Mary Moon has given us another salty, strong and vibrant Southern woman to love. In her first novel, The Yearning Heart of Apalachicola Rose, Ms. Moon has created a character with heart and soul who learns just how strong and capable she is when her husband, a no-good pretty boy truck-driver named Billy, leaves her and their four children one beautiful spring morning to go and live with his new love, a woman in Oklahoma, leaving Rose with nothing but a shattered heart, a broken dream, and a six-pack of Budweisers in the refrigerator. After Rose drinks the beer, cuts her hair, and cries on her red-headed mama’s shoulder, she realizes that she cannot afford the luxury of wallowing in misery and so, like Scarlett O’Hara faced with the coming of the Yankees, Rose cuts down her curtains and makes a dress!
No! She doesn’t do that at all!
She gets on with her life and despite the fact that she has only a high-school education and a part-time job as a waitress, she manages to support and nurture her little family, survive the terrible Florida heat and: her gossiping small town neighbors, a major hurricane and the passes of an oysterman with very few teeth! This little Southern gal has spunk!
And then, into Rose’s backyard and life walks Raymond- a man with a beard! A man with a motorcycle! A man with a past! A man who knows how to decorate! Despite that, he really is “all man” and this all-man teaches Rose what love is all about! From their first lusty encounter under a full moon on the deserted white sands of beautiful St. George Island to the fulfilment of their passion in Raymond’s futon, Rose and Raymond are destined to be together!
But are they? Will Billy come back and reclaim the woman that he believes to be his and his alone? Will Rose succumb to Billy’s old charm and fall back into the life that she now knows is empty and false?
These and many other questions (including- will Rose get kicked out of the state of California for not knowing what Tofutti is?) will keep you reading long after your regular bedtime.
A full set of real characters accompany Rose on her journey to happiness. Black and white, gay and straight, Rose’s friends and family are there with her, every step of the way, making sure that the picturesque town of Apalachicola is populated in a colorful and amusing way.
Ms. Moon writes with passion and with authority. The reader cannot help but think, “By golly! Here’s a new voice with passion and authority!” From page one, to page last, this is a book. A real book. Read it and laugh. Read it and cry. Read it and remember what it is that we read books for! “Made me restart my book club!” Oprah “Gave me the strength to carry on!” Bill Clinton “Made me want to be a Southern woman!” Norman Mailer “Inspired my newest album!” Bob Dylan “Made me want to go back and work at the Dairy Queen again!” Anna Nicole “Laughed so hard I broke a rib and couldn’t do yoga for a month!” Madonna “Cried so hard that I had to get my Botox redone!” Anonymous

Okay. Do you see how desperate and insane the trying-to-get-an-agent process will make you?
I believe I've proved my point.