When the Virus Came

When the Virus Came

In 25 years a younger person – our children or a grandson or a niece – will turn to us and ask “What was it like when the virus came? What did people do? How did you live?” I’d want to tell them about the prom dress that my friend’s daughter ordered, and which arrived in the mail for a prom that won’t be happening. How I imagined a prom held in a great, open field, all the kids slow dancing six feet apart, moving through the tall grasses, together. How I bought flowers at the market on that last day before they told us to go home – even though they were overpriced and unremarkable. It was a stand for beauty. And the tiny cupcakes I put in my cart, the good wine and chocolate. I’d tell them about the unspoken etiquette of encountering someone on the sidewalk as we walk the neighborhood, the way one of you will veer away, not entirely un-politely, sometimes looking up with a small nod. I see you. The way even though most of the people I see on my walks are neighbors I don’t know, there is more eye contact, more community – something that you can feel that tethers us together. I’d tell them how my 24-year-old daughter, Ruby looked up from her work at the kitchen table yesterday and said that she knew she should be more shocked by this, but that she’d grown up in an age where people took guns into movie theaters and concerts, and children brought guns to school and killed other children. “I’m just...
Coming Home to Mother

Coming Home to Mother

Well, the half and half is gone, but we have plenty of oat milk. And I just peeled the almost dead tangerine, and put half of it in front of my daughter, who is working from the kitchen table. A week ago I might have tossed that tangerine in the compost pile, but now everything seems precious. Especially these things that come from Mother Earth, a term I never related to before – the earth as my mother – but now I see how wasteful I have been. Last night, putting away the bits of onion and mushroom leftover from the scrambled eggs we made for dinner, I reached for a fresh plastic baggie in the box, then put it away, and grabbed a small glass jar instead. And lights and water. Everything is precious. I have more than I need. And isn’t it beautiful, this resilience, this way we can turn towards ourselves, and that line I remember, “want what you have, not what you don’t have.” We will drink coffee with oat milk. And when that is gone we will mix coffee with butter and MCT oil. And when that is gone we will drink our coffee black, and when the coffee is gone we will switch to tea. And when the tea is gone we will begin the day with water – something our Mother, our Mother Earth is still generously providing for us. Thank you Mother, thank you for everything. share this...
Becoming Light

Becoming Light

I hardly know what to say. I could tell you about the trip to Mexico for 13 people that I had to cancel last week – three days before we were set to leave – a trip that all of us were looking forward to, that we had made plans for and spent money on. I could tell you about the difficulty of making the decision, even though the media hadn’t really detailed what non-essential travel was a week ago. How sunny it was in Mexico – how the virus hadn’t even exactly gotten there yet. I could tell you about the stress of disappointing people, of making the wrong decision, and the relief some people had that I had made the hard decision for them, how one friend said she was ready to follow me across the border because she was a good girl and didn’t want to disappoint anyone. And how well I understood that. How sometimes the hardest decisions are the right ones if you listen to your gut. I could tell you about my 83-year-old mother, Suzanne in L.A. How when Mexico was cancelled, I said, I’m coming to you, and she said, “Darling, I adore you, stay where you are.” Not because she didn’t want my company, but because she was practicing a kind of social distancing before she even knew the term. Decided she would be okay, that she was flooded with friends in L.A. And now of course, it’s mostly just my mom and her yappy dogs, though my sweet brother promises to drop by with groceries. I could tell you about...
Stay

Stay

This is for my daughter to who took a Lyft to the ferry – and the ferry to San Francisco and walked 15 minutes in the cold morning air to get to her job in the city today. For the way I just wrote out the word San Francisco, instead of SF – like I have done for the past 38-years – as if this place has become, after all these years of living in the Bay Area, more significant since someone I love more than anyone – except her little sister – now resides there. How yesterday I stood at the corner of California and Fillmore and I knew where I was. I had passed through that intersection many times, but today I was anchored by blood, felt an urgent sense of place, how I calculated from where I stood, where my daughter’s apartment was, which streets I would take to get to her. How fast I could be there in an earthquake. For my car which is loaded with the last of her things – the mattress and all of her toiletries, the pillows and the blankets, and how I just went upstairs to see what her room looks like without her. For the white go-go boots with silver studs that she left on on the floor – the ones she had to have two summers ago, and the pale pink sheets she tossed lazily on the bed – for the way the morning light hit the sheets in such a dreamy way that I had to run up there with my camera to capture the light, as if I...
The Kingdom of Light

The Kingdom of Light

The man with the teeth coming out of his cheek scared me. So did the man with knobs for hands who sat cross legged on the ground, bobbing back and forth, chanting, balancing a cup of tea between his knobs. The burned man too, he scared me, the layers of exposed flesh, how the skin on his back gave way to a hollow crater that allowed you to see what was inside a person. I’d made myself look at him as I circled the great Boudhanath stupa in walking mediation. But the man with the teeth jutting out of his cheek scared me the most, and I only allowed myself a quick glimpse before turning away. I wasn’t ready for the way his right eye melted into his face. How the left side of his body collapsed, how it was the job of the right side to drag it around. Wasn’t ready for the way he looked straight at me. I’d heard my dear friend, the writer, Jeff Greenwald, talk about Kathmandu for years. The ancient kingdom of Nepal was featured in three of his books, and many of Jeff’s monologues on stage featured bizarre encounters with baby snow leopards, llamas and magicians disguised as beggars. His stories were mesmerizing and exotic, but I never once considered going to Nepal because I didn’t think I could handle the poverty, the dirt, and the disfigured. James, our meditation guide, and the creator of the Himalayan Writers’ Workshop, and who has hired me for the last three years to be one of his writing instructors, says that if a man like...
Why I Travel

Why I Travel

I travel to forget where I am and to lose track of the days. To wake up to the sounds of dogs and doves, the conch shell at dawn, the chanting of monks coming from the monastery down the block. I travel for bells and incense, to watch the sun rise above an ancient city that sits atop a mandala, to cross paths with an old woman sweeping up piles of dust and fallen blossoms. I travel for her smile, the way she’ll turn to me as I get close, her butter brown face open in namaste. I travel to see the dogs running around Kathmandu wearing necklaces made of marigolds, to let a family of five scoot past me on a motorcycle, daily meals of lentils and rice, a baby with kohl black eye liner around her eyes to ward off evil spirits. I travel to fall off the wagon, to fall off the diet, to be presented with a plate of crispy crickets and a malty rice wine tasting of sour milk. To take a wrong turn in a small Mexican village and get swept up in a parade of 20-foot tall puppets. To become one of them for a moment. I travel for mezcal, how it’s offered when we get to the potter’s home high in the hills of Oaxaca, and offered again when we leave. I travel for the wet clay that will stay under our our fingernails for days. I travel for the bluest indigo dyes I’ve eve seen, and how the dye master rubbed dried insects into a red powdered dust in the...