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On shore the land felt liquefied and unfamiliar without the sensual spark swimming along side me. The leaves glistened above my head, like golden gems you’d wear on a necklace. The Santa Fe river sang its song over rocks, branches and brush, while white butterflies and birds fluttered an awakening. I passed cafes, watched couples and families luxuriating in the sunlight, Canyon road art hawkers snapped photos, gallery owners chatted on the courtyards.
The stage of comfort as picturesque as a postcard. I was outside the activity. I rushed home, passing people who walked as if lost, and shoes stuck in tar. Thoughts trotted like ponies all going in different directions. No path had an answer, or a reason, or an understanding of our endearment.
The Thinker swims close by. Sometimes I feel him soaring past me, glancing for a moment, then he’s gone. The house is quiet, doors and shades closed. My nakedness is wrapped in blankets and the aroma of pumpkin spice from a candle. My stage is empty, no audience of any sort. These are the moments when examination of behavior, discipline, and self-honesty rise above the solitude. A woman of lovers rather than husbands, beckons my heart to open to the odyssey of love.
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The throw of the dice this week lands on adventures in contemplation. Before the day begins to intersect with my solitude, I sit at my desk in a pre-dawn crystal of clarity. Only the light from a candle shines on a journal of hand written notes. I walked outside to asses the damage of a devilish storm that ravished the night. Leaves dropped from trees and the street is slick with the residue of the storm. Autumn is rising from dormancy; she is painting the leaves pumpkin and cranberry, while impregnating the atmosphere with the perfume of seasonal change. The inversion seeps into my pores.
While shopping at Whole Foods last week, for my first stockpile of chicken tortilla soup, I noticed expressions of contemplation on faces. Not in the choice of their groceries, but a characteristic of preparation for winter. Pumpkins, firewood and potted mums have replaced the outdoor display of flower baskets and lavender. The silence will blanket time beyond the hours of sleep. This is when contemplation is given the freedom to spread over my thoughts and feelings. September marks the disrobing of summer; as if the float of festivities, parties, and outdoor markets were moved into storage.
Last week was the beginning of the new Year on the Jewish Calendar, Rosh Hashanah. Unlike New Years for the traditional American, is a time of contemplation and reckoning of ones faults. We are asked to examine our behavior and plant new seeds of integrity from within.
“Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh (“casting off”). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom.” Excerpt from Wikipedia.
What I do is to take my emotional and physical wardrobe, and move it from the closet in my casita, to the upstairs storage closet. The skimpy and sexy finery are replaced with turtlenecks, leggings and wool. The emotional wardrobe, is pressed down to the fibers, so it can be studied. In this examination, the reflection of myself is not as important as it has been, the stubble of age has bitten me but not in a bitter way. It has burned down my childish selfishness, insistence of acknowledgment, intolerance of behavior unfamiliar to me, and detached me from the wayward choices made by our government. I used to work with the news turned on and the volume down.
This summer, beginning just after my adventure in Malibu with my friend Chantel, my grip on aloofness towards Santa Fe, frustrations associated with publication, and narcissism dissipated. It is possible that one month in the company of Chantal, her vibrancy and generosity softened my reserve. In the last four months, I’ve at last given up tightening against the unmanageable forces that intersect with me, and meet the pleasures of humanity in nakedness. I stood in my doorway, shaded by trees and shrubbery, naked – simply to feel the sensation. In return for this placation of behavior, I was invited by my vacation rental guests into their gatherings and parties; a wedding couple and their twenty-five guests included me in their after party. We cajoled, roused, sang and danced until my neighbor, JD, shamed our festivity and ordered me to shut the party down. It was one-thirty in the morning. I wrapped my arm around his neck, and whispered, ‘Oh, you are so right; I will take care of it. Don’t worry.’ JD, a man with twenty- three civil complaints for noise ordinance disruption against the La Posada Resort across the street, replied ‘Well LouLou, if you don’t, I’ll have to call the police.’ I hugged him tighter, and said. “Of course you will, and you have every right.’ This is not the behavior that guided me last year. I returned to the party and made the announcement to the guests, who were by now leaning against the walls, drinking shots of whisky in bowls, and I said:
‘ Party to dawn kids, but keep your voices down.’ The lights went out at four-thirty in the morning. When I left the house, empty bottles, uneaten meals, flowers, shoes, and scarfs scattered everywhere. This disruption of my polished tidy home would have erupted me into a silent rage a year ago. After they checked-out, my new pal and assistant Marc, entered the house. Stepping over pillows, popcorn, sticky wood floors, and into a kitchen of stained counters and food crumbs; a counterfeit of my dear old hollering father shouted; ‘ This is outrageous. They’ll pay for this!’
“ Stop. We were part of it. It was a wedding party. What did you expect?”
“What the heck is that? Marc said pointing to a clump of food stuck to the wall.
“ Looks like salsa and chips.” I said with a sponge in my hand. By the time we reached the rooms upstairs, I too was chuckling. Two days later the house converted from slipshod to spotless.
The spell of silence has now been broken. The sidewalk blowers stir the leaves, doors open, the clatter of buffet trays wheeling down the street from the kitchen at La Posada pushed by employees in white jackets, swipe greetings, and converse in Spanish. My birds are screeching for more seeds, and the candle is just about burned out. The unknown outcome of our state of affairs in government and society has padded me with extra elasticity, tolerance, and love. Maybe our collective kindness will intercede with the poisonous bitterness and vengeance that titillates through the news.
5 BDR/3 BATHS. FORMAL DINING ROOM. PRIVATE GATED. GARDEN MOVIE THEATER
ACROSS THE STREET FROM LA POSADA RESORT & SPA.
HISTORIC EAST-SIDE OF SANTA FE, NM
2 BLOCKS TO DOWNTOWN PLAZA
The throw of the dice this week lands on adventures in livingness; one day at a time. People with terminal illness, suffering from a shattered romance, a death of a friend, a natural disaster, always say the same thing; One day at a time.
Walking up Palace Avenue on a day spread with sunlight, and a continuum of power walkers, bikers and runners, passing by in whiffs of urgency, I took my time. I didn’t feel like flexing, just evaporating into the shadows, and the moving clouds. I walked by a little adobe, that once was a dump site for empty bottles, cartons, worn out furniture, and piles of wood. A year later, the yard is almost condominium clean. Just as I was passing the driveway, the little woman whom I’d seen walking up Palace with her bag of groceries, appeared like a gust of history in the driveway of her adobe casita. She wore her heavy blanket like coat and a bandanna on her head. Regardless of weather, she’s bundled up in the same woven Indian coat and long wool skirt. I stood next to her, a foot or so taller, and she unraveled history, without my prompting. She told me about the Martinez family, the Montoyas, and the Abeytas, all families she knew, all with streets named after them. Estelle asked me my name, and then took my hand in her weathered unyielding grip, ‘Oh I had an Aunt named Lucero, and we called her LouLou.’ She didn’t let go of my hand, and then she told me that the families, some names I’ve forgotten, bought homes on Palace in 1988 for $50,000, She shook her finger to demonstrate her point. ‘You know how many houses the Garcias bought? Five! Then they fixed them up and sold them.’
I could have stood there in the gravel driveway listening to Estelle all afternoon. She owns the oral history I love to record; but it is difficult to understand her, she talks with the speed of a southwest wind. We parted and I thought about the times in my life when the smallest of interactions elevates my spirit. In older people, who are not addicted to gadgets and distant intimacy, I’m reminded of how speed socializing has diminished the opportunity for a sidewalk chat.
SMILEY’S DICE-ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS
I’m sitting outside in a flowerless garden because no matter how many flowers I plant, they only last one season, if that long. The garden is erupting out of its winter coat, and lime green leaves, plants, and stalks will have to do for now. The sky that seals me in is licked with revisionary hope. The kind that comes back laundered and fresh after a chosen recess from believing in the possibility of a preferred life correction.
Behind the garden, a neighbor is drumming a soft tribal beat, and on Palace Avenue the choir is singing inside the Episcopal Church on Palace Avenue. Between these distinctive tastes, there are sparrows fluttering from fan to nest to fountain. The chattering sounds like; ‘here she comes, don’t come over here, get out of my nest, watch out for that fat crow.’
It’s a mind drift, to be caught in such UN-structured beauty, away from the manuscripts, remotes, doors, and phones. It’s like being on an island out here. Everything we bring into our experience can be revised; a work of art, a way of speaking, thinking, portraying yourself, your way of loving, or lusting, and we all know about appearance, because our society shoves it down our throat.
Look at the possibilities in revising our patterns of behavior. What we accepted twenty years ago doesn’t mean it’s carved in our organs. We can transmute. The interior life needs lifting and tightening, just as our mind and muscles do. You won’t find any immediate remedy, or advertisements, or books on the subject because we’re consumers of products that change and revise only the visible tangibles. I wonder if I traded in my eleven year old Land Rover for a new one if I’d be really happy, and for how long? Or if I flew to Los Angeles and bought cartons of antiques, hats, and perfume if I would be grinning from ear to ear.
I begin with revising the way I experience Santa Fe. I’ve lived on the outskirts, like a storm that blew in and is waiting to blow out. It seems my storm is here for now, and so I let go of the criticism and intolerances. Beginning with my favorite activity, dancing, I returned to El Farol, my chosen dance hall hullabaloo, then to La Posada across the street and mingled with an assorted group of locals, guests, and actors, (who were real as pippin apples)spent a day cruzing the ghostly town of Madrid to experience the cinematic sparseness, and walked up and down Canyon Road one morning before the shops opened, and was greeted half a dozen times by strangers out walking, uniquely different in attire, disposition and stride. I love that about Santa Fe. You don’t conform, it’s a religion here!
My homework for the next few weeks is revising the interior doors of emotion, and the exterior doors of expression. I’ve set aside the memoir, (did I mention I started that again) after a publisher suggested major rewrites and editing. I mean you have to know when to give up because you’re not going to make the team. I’m a six page essayist. If you get me into one hundred and fifty pages, I march all over the globe and lose the reader.
You guys are smart. You know all of this; I’m just learning. I am a case of insufferable arrested development. If I felt my age, which most of you know, I’d be looking at retirement brochures. Instead I’m planning on breaking into new territory. Its a joke between my dreamer self and my inner critic, but I’m not listening to the critic.
Today I swiveled in my desk chair trying to write the column I thought I was going to write. In between gazing out the window at sky scenery, I made oatmeal cookies, watched the birds, took care of business, had a hair cut, plucked at paragraphs from Anais Nin, and danced on the treadmill. The column didn’t come out of a conscious thought wave; it just rose up, after I typed the words, the throw of the dice. The odds were I’d find my way from there.
My dad the gambler, who laid a bet on everything from sports, horses, gaming, to the Academy Awards and elections, taught me many valuable lessons. He actually told me once, ‘Take a chance for heavens sake! Go out and get arrested.’ He knew the odds of that, which is why he dared me. Life corrections begin with edits, then revisions, and then you have a new story!
Any dice to throw email:firstname.lastname@example.org
The banner in front of Trader Joes read, Menopause Revival, and White Zen recognized Johnny Depp in Whole Foods, ” because they were skinny Hollywood types, and the cashier at Sunflower Market, piles up a dozen items, and then asks, if I want a bag? The DJ on Santa Fe Blue recites the weekly line-up, but he doesn’t know who the guest musicians are. It’s part of the quirky, puzzling, undefined tonality of Santa Fe.