Saturday, October 28, 1995

White noise

I opened the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts events guide, only to find yet another piece of my art reproduced to advertise the arts program. This is the third piece they've used, without my information without my name on it.

It becomes another graphic, a piece of white noise—like any other. My art is the art you see without really noticing it, a filler in various reincarnations.

My mask drawing must have run in the Press Democrat for months, now my woodblocks, or my scratchboard drawings are making the rounds.

Yes, you've seen my art, you've probably glanced at it, then turned the page. A sudden urge for culture might lead you inevitably to the entertainment section, where you would no more notice my art than you would any other graphic design, placed to fill a void and to comfort the eye, to invite you in and then, let you go.


Housesitting the Heart

Yesterday I left Marsha Connell's place, homesick, no real reason to stay there, other than to feed the cats and collect the mail. I had to fight with myself all day long just to stay there, which I managed to do until about 4 PM, then the blues settled in, and I was crying for my mother, for it's been a year since she died.

I was happy to be on my home own doorstep, sitting amid the scattered rose petals, weeping, when Steve duBois came by, and invited me over for some beer and pot. We watched reruns of Northern Exposure and giggled over nothing and everything.

I confessed to Steve that my strength and self-reliance was a front. I'm very fragile, and lately the facets of being responsible have weighed too heavily upon me. I just can't do it anymore, I said, and added something about feeling out from under Sonny after my last letter, thinking of it was pretty final, when Steve pipes up, That's not what Sonny said.  Shit!

Steve said: The other day he seem to think you had a relationship after all. He didn't know what kind it was or where it was going, but he acknowledged it. And he began talking about it before he had some brandy, and he talked some more after having some brandy. He admitted he had a hard time opening up. 

That's what made me perk up and take notice. It was before the alcohol. So it all really is on a positive note and I was blown away. Here I had gambled and lost all, only to discover my observations weren't accurate. Of course Sonny said nothing to me. Thank God for the intervention of friends. Frickin' Peyton Place.

I didn't even care when a couple of hours later Sonny came home, I could hear her voice. He came over to Steve's to check up on Nathan who was snuggled up into me. And I was smelling his hair, snuffling like a mother dog or a horse those family pheromones uniting us. 

We ordered pizza, Alastair Ingram came over and we all watched The Gods Must Be Crazy. Sonny and Pat went over to the Hacienda to her brother's place to get something. Nathan didn't want to go and snuggled back into my arms. I stared at the TV, not wanting to be a part of this action anymore, knowing Pat was here. 

He didn't know that I knew what was up, of course, and I was curious to see what he would do. Knowing that his kid would Velcro himself onto me, here I was again watching him while Sonny was out with Pat, a sticky situation.

Steve said Nathan could stay, so to technically I wasn't watching the kid, but I needed him in my arms. Solace. I would've loved to have Sunny hold me too, but it was a little too crowded, a little too loaded, but if I had asked, I believe he would've done it. Even with Pat being there. There was something different in the air. And I didn't know what, perhaps, hope. 

Both times when Sonny came over, he was trying to pay attention to all of us equally, but there was certainly a charged aura between us. It's like we could almost see each other better by not looking directly at each other, by using the other senses. I know I must've shone like a lantern when he walked in the door. He wasn't expecting to see me there. But as he entered, he must've had some forewarning, perhaps my laughter drifted out into the night. But he had his poker face on. All bets were off.

Celli Cabin Cat Chronicles

In a united furry front, the cats made a steady parade of dramatic and entrances and exits in ans out of our cabin doors. Alastair's cat Angus, was renamed Ankles, Anguish and Anxiety. Evan's cat Hucky (Huckleberry) had other plans for the evening. He was the most doglike of the litter, and followed Evan everywhere. (Evan's girlfriend Heather Granahan brought over a box of kittens and nearly everyone at the cabins adopted one—except me.)

Nathan and Sonny's cat, Mucky yowled for attention in his scaredy-cat way. A timid one. And I cuddled him to sleep. Steve says, It must be you, he he never comes into my cabin on his own accord. Mucky never much for cuddling, made his escape.

It took Mucky a few tries to get the hang of opening Steve's screen door. At first, he was too timid and too slow and the screen door kept slamming on his head. Finally he gave it a big push and manage to shoulder his way through the door, but got a little too nonchalant towards the end, too slothful, and the door slammed on his tail. Startled, he took off, having blown his cool cat exit.

Mucky nags me some more, he wants me to go over to my house and pet him by the food bowl, he doesn't want food, my door's been open all evening. He wants the ritual of being patted and fondled in his special space. Eventually I indulge his little furry whims while on a beer run to my house.

Steve said Sonny was supposed to be back soon, but it was hours later, and the necessity to drink beer and to get stoned was an order, so we partied on into the night. At one point, Nathan wanted to watch a new program on TV, and went to my house, but like Mucky the cat, he also wanted to be petted in his own special spot, which happens to be my spot on the bed.

So we went back to Steve's cabin next door for pizza and returned to my cabin until Sonny came home. He called in around midnight, and I was asleep. Nathan nearly so. We were watching Raising Arizona. Mucky was quite pleased to have both of us in the same place at the same time, and acted silly, flopping all over, ecstatically wiggling his whiskers to be scratched and all those secret little places.

I tell Nathan Mucky prefers it when we're all together especially at his house, then wonder am I anthropomorphizing this too much? No. Mucky comes unglued if I'm at Sonny's with Nathan on the couch bed—definitely his idea of the cat's pajamas.

Meanwhile Anguish is chewing on Nathan's dogtags. A cat eating dog tags? Woof? We give him some pizza and he's in hog heaven. It's only a tiny scrap of pizza but he is ever so grateful that it requires a full body bath before retiring for the evening.

I take notes from these little fur godlets, they give me metaphors to live by, parallel structure. I wasn't forceful enough with Sonny, so he kept slamming the door in my face. I did a good shoulder shove and the door opened, letting me in. But if I linger I'll get my tail caught in the door.

Then there's poor timid Moppet who wants to please everyone, but psychically follows the energy. Whenever important stacks of paper I am working on, becomes her new nesting spot. Even the laptop isn't exempt from her radar scanning. Maybe she's just a heatseeking cat, but the papers don't generate heat unless the words combust on the page.

Once I yelled at her for sitting on the self-portraits from Windsor High School that were on the chair. I want her to sit on the chair, not on my desk. Now, that she's finally gotten the idea of place, not things, it's no longer okay. Each time she's on the chair, when she sees me, she scurries off. And I feel so bad. Sometimes I'm able to intercept and cuddle her so it's not such a big deal. Place, not things, is her reality.

I begin to think of what Sonny and I are going through is of a similar mistranslation. Action/reaction but to the wrong things. Place oriented versus object oriented. Place becomes conceptual. Objects become a list of examples. He sums things up in generalities, sweeping the chair and the table slate clean. Offering me estimation.

While I need to see all the stuff that was stacked on the chair, or on the plate. in order to understand the concept. The place above the chair is a conceptual space, potential. It is potentially could harbor a body which leads to the heart and to the head via the genitals.

The chair becomes an extension of my own overcrowded table that doubles as a desk, storage space, etc., which upsets the cats, they know chairs are their turf. I fill the chairs with stuff so no human or cat can occupy that space. Chair equals an intent to eat, intent to talk, intent to study. Activity takes place there.

I need to open myself and my living space up to the possibility that's why we exist to fulfill our human potential, not to hide behind our own misery. Yes, I've told a man that his very presence gave me courage to go on, and for once, he's not slamming the door in my face.

Tuesday, October 24, 1995


The engineer who spilled 20,000 gallons of poison
into the Sacramento River was a railroad man.
The river died for our sins, writes the poet.
It could've been my father, or me, he says.
The river and the town died for their sins.
Love lives in the darkest of places.

10/24 1995

1991 spill
Mike Holland, born in Dunsmuir

Monday, October 23, 1995

Bohemian Housewarming Party

At my childhood friend Micaela's housewarming party in Berkeley, I ran into small segments of our past; it's a shock to see Micaela and her brother Chris, mirrored in the faces of their children. Christopher has a 10-year-old boy named Chris who looks just like him; Chris must've been 10 when I first met him.

Chris is an equipment appraiser for Bank of America, a vice president in a roomful of vice presidents, living in suburbia, with the wife and two kids. I expected so much more from Chris, with his intellectual prowess, I expected him to go places. All the people that his parents knew were part of the avant-garde Bohemian world. Instead, the black corporate heart of America took him hostage.

The people we met through their parents were unusual—in and of themselves. Bohemian artists for the most part.
Arthur Boericke was friends with Jaimie de Angulo. I remember the stories about the drunken sweat lodge parties in Berkeley. Imagine building a full-on sweat lodge in a Berkeley backyard.

I think Arthur was a sociologist. During the 1970s, he wrote Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher's Art, the first book of its kind. Then there was Patrick Wall who was Micaela and Chris's father, from the island of Jersey, his formidable intellect, his love of classical music, his coldness shaped us. His wife, Betty the potter, once married to painter Wilfred Lang, was a worrywart and self-depricating in a delightful way that made up for Pat's distance.

Micaela and I went for a hike on Saturday and discovered that both Pat and my grandmother actively discouraged us from using the broad American Aaaaa sound they found so offensive to their ears. Their tirades against our using that nasal American A sound left us feeling a little like mini Eliza Doolittles. To this day I still say ofTen with a full T sound instead of offen.

Betty's first husband, Wilfred Lane, recently died; his paintings are valuable already, said Chris. Micaela mentions the name of the woman that kept Wilfred in suspense for years – Marsha. I remember meeting her with her Mexican tiered skirt skirts and Wilfred with his gobs of tiered turquoise. They were all living in Santa Fe at the time.

The New Mexico contingency included Betty and Wilfred and the children—Chris and Micaela's stepbrothers and sisters: Pete, Sonia, Stan, and Justina—the joke always was: What is your name? Tina. Tina? No, Justina. Just Tina? and so on.

I suspected that Pete Had a crush on Micaela, she was so beautiful, and but he went off to become a spy And she became a hippie. in the early 1970s I stayed with Pete and his wife Sara in Parksville, British Columbia. They moved to Florida where he built wooden boats, and later got divorced. She's now living in Hawaii and he's in Galveston Texas, said Chris. The others I didn't ask about. 

Stan was living in the Virgin Islands. I think Micaela was always a little in love with Stan who looked like bad boy James Dean. I was a little in love with Chris. I imagine Sonia and Tina are still living in New Mexico. Sonia was one of the first people to move to Morning Star Ranch, and become part of Lou Gottlieb's commune. She was always out there on the periphery of way cool. 

Chris and Micaela's mother, Rosalind Sharpe Wall died about four years back; her book on Big Sur memories was on its third printing. Kudos, none of this happening during Rosalind's lifetime ironically. She grew up on a rancho in Bixby Canyon in Big Sur. Rosalind dabbled in paint too, which was handy as her then husband Patrick was an art dealer in Carmel. The first modern art dealer on the West Coast. 

One artist that was well represented in Patrick's house beside Wilfred Lang, was Carmel artist Ellwood Graham. Graham's paintings always fascinated me. (See more Pat Wall, Modern Art Dealer: Ellwood Graham).

Rosalind dabbled in the occult as well. She was an overbearing woman who always had some project going. She was a bit like Frida Kahlo, and Wilfred was a lot like Diego Rivera but they never hooked up. I don't think the fabric in the time-space continuum could've contained it.

The mysterious Marsha was more like Georgia O'Keeffe, the model. I've no idea what she did, other than to be haughty. Her full size portrait has a marionette at the bottom. Was it a portrait of the artist, Wilfred?

Rosalind, and my mother were like two cats locked up in a room, too similar for words, each itching to defrock the other of her occult witches' vestments. Each calling the other a fraud, each designing their own tarot decks. Rosalind's rather simplistic deck design was at least published, in John Starr Cooke's The New Tarot: The Tarot for the Aquarian Age (Boxed Set with Cards)1970.

It turned out that Brite Bonnier, the painter with her jaunty beret and red sports car, was also a friend of John Cook's. Small world. She was at the party with her small dog. 

I arrived late to Micaela’s housewarming, having nearly been nearly clobbered by a bad driver who, as luck would have it, was also coming to the party as well. I wanted to clobber her in real time as well but thought that would make a bad entrance. I had to go a block out of my way to keep from being hit, so when I finally parked, Micaela and Brite were on the front steps. 

And I was in a rage so I wasn't introduced to Brite ’til much later. That I even remembered her last name was a miracle. She mentioned her brother living in Sweden. I think he visited once. I never knew she was Swedish. She asked if I remembered the barge in Sausalito. I'm not sure, but I do remember the Charles Van Damme, Pero and Alice Wolfe's houseboat, and the others. 

I remember crashing parties when we were kids, Chris lighting off cherry bombs underwater. We were banned from the parties, but snuck in anyway. I was on the Charles Van Damme ferryboat at least two times when Varda lived there. His paintings were bolted to the walls of the skewed boat. I recognized the paintings by style, like the ones I had seen in Patrick's house in Sausalito, and later when he was our neighbor in Forest Knolls. Varda, Lang, Graham: a litany of Bohemian artists: West Coast names that changed the very face of art.

I remember late at night walking the plank at Pero and Alice's houseboat, and peeking into the windows to see the partygoers, the water was alive with biolytic luminescence under the full moon. Which place was Brite Bonnier's? She was friends with John Cook and I will have to interview her to find out more about it. 

I tell Brite the story of how I managed Western Star Press for Alice Kent. Alice was John's sister. Before John's death in the early 60s, Chris, Micaela and I used to steal trinkets from the Trade Faire, a ferryboat emporium. We were nine and ten years old and we mailed large turquoise rings to John Cook in Cuernavaca. He must've wondered about why we were sending him turquoise rings in the mail as we didn't have any money.

I remember John Cooke, a tall broad-shouldered bald silent man with a kindly face. At that age we knew nothing of the world. Betty called us her brats. And we ran wild through the shipways and alleys of Sausalito, and the hills of Forest Knolls. I didn't know I would want those memories back one day, but with the tag that explains their significance and relevance.

For it was those interesting people that help shape us and made us who we are. By their very presence, and not necessarily by design. The order of the Golden Dawn, Allister Crowley, Alan Watts, Jean Varda—these are all names out of my childhood. But I have no place to put them in the larger order of things. 

Actor and dancer John Cooke was a kind of a mythical God. We knew he was special, but we didn't know why. Begin the Beguin was his favorite song, said Alice Kent. Did the Sufis really burn him with their hands on his shoulders at the airport because no one ever escaped their order – was it in Morocco? Tangiers? The imprint of the hand on the shoulder had the doctor shaking their heads, for it was to become the cancer that eventually killed him. 

John's Tarot for the New Aquarian age was decades ahead of its time. And we grew up on the arcane trivia from the Tibetan and the Egyptian books of the dead, we grew up on tarot, and astrology, you name it—long before there was a New Age. 

My mother's world, and Micaela and Chris' world, each parent was a satellite with an asteroid belt of followers—and small rivalries were of no concern to us. My mom was an actress and costume set designer at the Gate Playhouse Theatre in Sausalito. 

Patrick was a connoisseur of the arts, he was in the realm of the philosophical world. Rosalind Sharpe was into the occult, living in Sausalito during the early 60s as well—these people that helped shape my life. 

What I remember most are the visual images, the quality of light, the colors of the sky, the colors of the bay and the cypress trees, and the odor of nasturtiums and geraniums. Chris's paper route. The stinking bay. The dilapidated boats. Gate Five. Tiki Junction. And now all those adults who lived there are nearly all dead now, and their stories, buried. All I have left are these incomplete fragments that have little cohesiveness, or shape. 

What about Pero and Alice Wolfe? the story of Pero who once owned Anchor Steam Beer, crossing the bay in a boat dressed to the nines, to go to the opera, but they forgot to check the tide table. Who will write their stories?

Micaela said her lover, musician Tim Boomer, with whom she had bought the house, hence the housewarming party, reminded her a bit of me, Chris, Rosalind, and Pat. All of us so strong-willed with lots of interesting things to say. 

Micaela elaborated how her mother was so overbearing, she snuffed her out like a candle. And I'm shocked by the inference. Did she feel of no importance as a child with nothing to say? Sure, I spin fantastic stories now, but back then I was rather mute, quiet and shy. My entire world was made of horses. Micaela went on to say that the best years of her childhood were spent with me running around the hills of Forest Knolls with me (when I thought I was a horse).

School was awful, a kind of death for her. Me too. She dropped out during her sophomore year. I'd always thought it was because of the drug scene. We grew apart by the time puberty had set in. And she was far more adventurous, the Summer of Love, pot, etc., while I was still verging on redneck, and more than a couple of years behind her socially, so to speak.

I remember a reconciliation of sorts at age 13 or 14. We spent a good week together making miniskirts out of old 50s corduroy pencil skirts, and castoff clothing, and then we gradually drew apart into our own respective fragmented worlds. 

We lost touch when she moved—or ran away. I didn't consciously drop her as a friend, she just moved on. Our values were no longer the same. I suspect sex had something to do with it. She was 14, I waited until I was 18. The invisible border between child and woman had been drawn out and there was no defrocking of the wall, pardon the pun on her last name, Wall.

Micaela reminded me of the time that Ken and Mary Howard were having a party and a movie on Arroyo Road and we were forbidden to attend. But Chris was allowed to go. So we snuck over to the Howard's place at sunset after they had all left, and under the cover of dusk, we crept into the darkened living room to watch The Wild Ones.

Brando lounged on his motorcycle. In the late 1940s, bikers took over Hollister. What are you rebelling against? ask someone. What've you got? quipped Brando. After the movie was over, we made our escape via the kitchen, only to be busted for tripping over the silverware box. The Bohemians we were surrounded by, busted us for watching The Wild Ones. Odd. What exactly were they sheltering us from?

We'd seen much more in real life. Jean Varda liked young women, lots of them, Alan Watts, and Jaunita Mousson all lived on the Charles van Damme. Not all at the same time. Maybe it was her party, I don't know. My neighbor George said that the Charles van Damme was falling apart even way back then and she was busted for something and then hauled out. 

Who moved in after Juanita? Brite Bonnier? But she had the barge I think. Perhaps it was Varda. Anyway, what was the big deal about seeing Brando anyway? Ken Howard was a Harvard man and Mary had East Coast leanings, and money too. Both are dead now, their daughters, Debbie who goes by the name of Nina, and Sarah, were pretty whacked and scarred by that relationship. 

Ken and Pat were very much alike—both carpenters, both very intellectual, utterly charming and bitterly cold towards women, unless they wanted sex. They were unnecessarily cruel to their daughters, who didn't survive them emotionally. The boys fared better, Chris Wall, and Guy Howard, but they chose the American life over Bohemia. 

Children of Bohemians living a middle-class life, feeling like frauds, and feeling guilty for going against the quasi-Bohemian grain, fitting into neither world very well. I was the observer, raised by my grandmother from a previous generation, and a way of life destined to fail, for what could follow that? 

The Beatniks were not the physical inheritors of the Bohemians, for they escaped the middle-class,  and sought refuge here, while we children of Bohemians were never middle class. More like ravaged by a social experiment. I later found out that one of the thinkers that influenced the Bohemian movement, Allister Crowley was an omni-sexual pervert, flaunting sexual mores and delving into magic. But we were sheltered from any deviant behaviour. 

I'm sure Brite Bonnier and John Cooke were both bisexual, and Crowley's teachings would've seemed like a blessing to them. Brite, being Swedish, only had quasi-American morals to overthrow. John Cooke came from a real missionary family, for they were the famous Cookes of Hawaii. They were the black sheep, Alice assured me, not the Castle-Cookes, not the Big Five.

The Beats would've been closer to my mother's age. And Patrick was from a previous generation; he was in his 40s when he had children. Our generation is doing much of the same thing, having children so late... or not at all, except by accident, not design. That failure to commit runs deep.

Saturday, October 21, 1995

Touring with Elemental Portraits

Last evening, after teaching, I met with Kirk Whipple and Marilyn Morales to pursue grants for touring with Elemental Portraits—for all of us. Kirk gave me carte blanche to pursue self interest. He said, You don't have to be responsible for the larger picture, but if we get a large touring grant it will benefit all of us.

I will also get paid for my time if I write grants is the is the oblique message. It's on me, they're taking care of themselves first, and the amount of dollars to be raised to nourish their dream is enormous. Half a million. My needs are considerably less, but my dreams should remain big, I shouldn't be afraid to manifest those dreams—why not?

The other day I was telling someone about working with Kirk and Mari developing the Elemental Portraits, and they were clearly impressed. It was not my intent to do so, I was merely explaining something I was working on. And they saw me in a new light. 

I saw myself in a new light too. I was out there galavanting around with important musicians, just like in centuries past—when artists collaborated. I don't think my poems are particularly avant garde, but Kirk considers himself to be a late late late romantic composer, so I guess it's okay to have some tangible, concrete imagery. 

I still think I need to work on the Elemental Portraits more. I've got the human portraits down, but are they in essence, elemental? My framework is the scaffolding is air, earth, fire, and water—with a dash of classical references, seasoned with quantum physics. 

Maybe I need to see the Elemental Portraits in a new light, as multimedia events. Yes, I realize that I will be riding on Kirk and Mari's fabulous coattails, but I also will have earned the right as well. I did earn a fellowship for them. When will I quit thinking of myself as a fraud and begin to take myself seriously?

Thursday, October 19, 1995


     Poetry is eagle of experience—Gary Snyder

The eagle within me soars,
a word hunter searching
for the perfect metaphor,
searching for the crumbs of words,
while incautious mice fuel my rage,
honing my experience,
until I breathe the fire of the stars.
I am at home beneath a relentless sun.
My job is done when I find the right words
to put the sun to sleep,
and when the darkness comes,
my dream-self glides into the minds
of those who no longer sleep.

Higham Family School
added 11/17

Saturday, October 14, 1995

Inverness Fire

Yesterday I spent quite some time working on my obsessively long prose poem to my neighbor, Sonny Lowe, Obsession, after I returned from the Mendocino Woodlands. Like the Inverness fire, it's growing by leaps and bounds and shows no sign of ending.

I haven't had a chance to write in my journal since I came back from the Mendocino Woodlands. I came home to the big Inverness fire and to O.J. Simpson's acquittal. There was little news to be had in the deep woods, but on Tuesday we did get the news of O.J. Simpson. The woods couldn't filter that injustice out, it was so atrocious. 

Meanwhile 12,000 acres of Bishop Pine went up in smoke as the Pope gave mass in the pouring New Jersey rain, drenched believers filling the football field.

Last night I went to a party with Verona Seiter and Herman Berlandt at Zoravia Bettoil's flat in Pacific Heights, she is a Brazilian artist. Full moon over the San Francisco Bay took our breath away. A magical night.

We danced the samba, the lambada, with the Latin American ex-pats. Zoravia said I can move my hips like no other. I am flattered. I guess. She said that she thought that she could gyrate and flick her pelvis, until she saw me in action. She said every man's eyes were glued to my hips. I was wearing the ruffled tea dress from my 25th high school reunion, which helped. The Brazilian Consul wanted more than just a dance in the moonlight.

That complement coming from a Brazilian from São Paulo is a compliment indeed, but then I had reason to move like that. The more I hurt inside, the harder I danced, rejected by my neighbor Sonny and his latest skank, Pat. Because of them I am somewhat homeless, she is now living with him, invading my space with her negative energy. I can't be at my home anymore. This is why I danced so hard.

Herman and I snuck off to Bolinas on Sunday. And I tried to find out if my friends were burned out. At the American Red Cross in Point Reyes, I find Stephen Torre's name on the roster. The fire left his house standing, miraculously, since it stands atop Drakeview Estates Road, at the ridgeline. His neighbor, Van Morrison, lost everything. His place burned to the ground. Even the gold and platinum records. Bob Hamilton and I once almost bought the lot next to Van's place but there was no water.

Steve's house was listed as habitable but he did not show up for the Russian River Writers' Guild Monday night reading, nor did Kathy Evans. Oh well. I called her to see why she didn't show up for her reading, and she's having a hit histamine reaction to the world, and to the smoke. I give her the allergic saga, how works the immune system.
Meanwhile, Steve is in British Columbia thinking he has no home. I tell her it's still standing. Kathy can't believe it. Stress levels threaten to undo us all. No way to reach Steve.

Anyway, to catch up on things, last Sunday afternoon, Herman and I hiked from RCA Beach to Palomarin Beach. There were very few people on the trail. We didn't realize we had hiked so far north. 

Behind the roped off area, was the fire zone. The park rangers were quite surprised to see us, saying we'd hike to a fair distance. The park is closed as the trees are still sizzling. And looters have invaded, making their mark. There are cops everywhere. The rangers rifle, a symbol for martial law.

We can't see the fire, but my voice begins to hurt by nightfall. We hiked up one creek to a waterfall. Herman, for all his 72 years, is surprisingly agile. He continues to remind me of my grandmother. How odd. How we used to go on long hikes and adventures without any real preplanning. They just happen. 

Herman too likes this spontaneous approach to dailiness, we are invincible. We spend Sunday night in his cabin on the Mesa. A nice dinner of salmon and couscous. I always take it upon myself to cook most meals, treating Herman. I suspect Verona does the same, but I like to cook for him. Maybe it's the female thing. He purchases most of the food and does the dishes, so it's a decent exchange. 

I've been managing to keep away from home because of Sonny. Which means my life is changing. I don't have my home anchor anymore. Sonny's son Nathan hardly ever visits anymore and wonders why I'm never home. I explain, it's not forever. Yesterday Nathan's mother, Cindy, came to get him, leaving Sonny and Pat alone, and I growl. 

I've taken to flipping him off whenever they drive by. Safe within the walls of my tiny cabin, I'm living between two places—my cabin, and my truck, my bags are always packed. Bolinas is my refuge, it's becoming my new home, and I am on fire, raging against betrayal, and the injustice of it all.

Friday, October 6, 1995

Teaching Notes: Mendocino Woodlands Journal: translations, rainy day women

Mendocino Woodlands, October 6, 1995

Twenty years ago, my first boyfriend, Bob Hamilton turned me towards the bay window of Zachim's Gallery on Main Street, placed nasturtiums and yellow calendula beneath my chin, tilted my rainhat back, turned me towards my reflection in the window, and said, This is how you will look at 40 or 50. We will come back and remember this day.

I couldn't imagine my life without him, for I still believed in love. The gray sea reflected in the window, but his potters thumbs were already molding the clay of my belly. I stood in front of that bay window, and inhaled the punishing odor of nasturtiums in autumn. The sea practiced nuances of turquoise and jade beneath a cloudy sky.

Two decades later, I stand in front of that same bay window and remember what was said, and not said. In the bookstore, I take solace in fingering the book spines in the poetry section, just seeing the names of all my friends in print is comforting. I am homesick, but there is nothing much to return home to.

The other night I told Karin Faulkner I was homesick. I am teaching nearly 200 teenagers from Windsor poetry and silk painting at the Mendocino Woodlands.

Karin's presence, dinner and a beer helped to settle me. The bartender treated us at the pub. Karin and I go out to see Dangerous Minds in Fort Bragg and we are weeping, Do not go gentle. Karin said, We poets are always on the edge of tears.

I understand my students better after the movie, and regain some center by sleeping at her cabin. The last time I slept here in the pygmy forest, years ago, was with Oleg from the Ukraine.

I walk the Mendocino Headlands, no use walking the streets, I have no use for most of what fills the stores. I am not a tourist. I pass the Mendocino Hotel, and remember nights at the bar, where we all gathered after readings and talked about poetry until closing. Sharon Doubiago, Leonard Cirino, Bill Bradd, Jesse River, Devereau Baker, and Tom Robedeaux. Time was more gentle then.

I still want to sip coffee at the Café Beaujolais, but The Loft bookstore, an converted water tower, is now a bakery. Once, at The Loft, Leonard, Tom and I read poems on the crazily tilting floor. Poets are already a bit tilted, so it mattered not.

Leonard Cirino is well represented in the bookstore. I heard Tom Robideaux and Devereaux Baker split up and she went to Texas. Tom, I don't know where he went.

The For Sale sign, another death knell to the past. None of us can afford most of what's's being sold in the shops. As if poetry automatically carried its silent vow of poverty like a prayer flag against the wind. Mendocino's become too rich for most blood. People support new Irish knit sweaters with no patina of age, no shiny cuffs.

Once we lived along this coast like gypsies, sleeping within speaking distance of the ocean. We were part of the migration of artisans that began in the 1960s. The pygmy forest became our bed. Once we came up to help Sasha Makovkin unload his kiln, followed by a wild party of roast goat and vodka toasts as we baptized the new dinnerware fresh from the inferno.

Did that all really happen to me? It's as if memory itself had become fiction. And I could have forgotten all about it, and the sea caves in the middle of the bluff. but I drew a picture of it so I know I was there.

The masculine sea is pounding punishing the earth's vulva. The sheer drop into the sea astounds me. A prophylactic package is wedged in a groove on the fence railing. Why not here? I am envious of someone else's orgasms as if it still lingered in the salt air.

Walking the headlands, a poem is stuck, so alone, so lonely, yet so lovely. A breechbirth. I find myself looking for Sharon Doubiago's blue van, but it's no longer summer, she's headed up the coast.

Already I am rubbing shoulders with memory, the ghost haunting me. My eyes are doing funny things, I can only see the town as it was nearly a quarter of a century ago. The gallery where we once read poetry.

Sharon Doubiago's hair, like golden wings engulfing her face. And how her son, Danny stood there in front of their small cabin, just out of high school about to go off and play football for the Dallas Cowboys that bronze golden-haired manchild, and his slender sister, Shawn standing shyly behind him, deerlike, a carbon copy clone of her mother.

Memory is tricky for it tends to want to tell a story other than its own, and we are left with disembodied images. Ghosts.

And I am remembering the ones who stayed lost, how my childhood friend came here to lick her wounds, and raise a child. She was a friend from when horses came before boys, but later, the drugs took the reins. That all happened before the summer of love. She followed the bands who shaped the substance of a decade.

Karin's voice still seeps in from some of the old readings we gave at the McCallum House. We were the rainy day women: Karin Faulkner, Sharon Doubiago, Robin Rule, Cindy Frank, Mary Norbert Körte, Judith Tannembaum, and Marnie Purple. We were the poets lending our mellifluous voices to the wind.

Hunger gnaws at me but I deny myself food. The full moon is pulling on my blood, ambivalence choking my will. This place of uneasiness unleashes a savage, untamed and wordless poetry. 

Overburdened by memory, I am unable to capture what was said, what was remembered. Everything is always in translation. Even poetry.

Teaching Notes: Mendocino Woodlands Journal: slip of the tongue

Mendocino Woodlands, October 6, 1995

At Mendocino Woodlands, the stoner kids want to know if I've dropped acid. And I say, But of course, before I realize what I have done. Oops! I am the adult here. I say, Look at the decades I grew up in. It was different times. Jerry Garcia lived right down the road for me as did Carlos Santana.

I backpedal and preach: Now as an artist, it find it's important to have all of my brain online. He's pleased that an adult is being straightforward with him, so maybe it's not all a mistake after all.

I coax poetry and art from my students. We cover the buildings with silk paintings, self-portraits. Will I look back upon this moment 20 years from now? The ghosts of the past are whispering urgent lines, waiting for lips by which to speak. (Ironically it is true 20 years later I am looking back as I type up this note.)

I switch from Spanish to English with my students. In a polyglot of tellings, we find approximations to shape our thoughts into transmittable format. Imperfect as it is, it's all that we have to go by.

Thursday, October 5, 1995

Teaching Notes: Mendocino Woodlands Journal: Learning to let go

Mendocino Woodlands, October 5, 1995

At the Mendocino Woodlands Jeff is not teaching, he is learning to let go, as we gather 200 ninth graders and staff, to bond, and to create a community. We are a disembodied, homeless high school lost in the woods.

Without a home, we come to the redwoods, a place where Jeff once lived, and worked, and we come here to do work, to build a community, a tribe, while he tries to forget what connects him to that hospital bed in the burn ward where his stepbrother pays the price for a drink, with his life. The nurses warned Jeff that the 10th day is always the worst, that's when the infection sets in. He counts the days with minute precision.

Jeff chooses his students, plays frisbee, does bunk patrol, he emcees, he runs the camp with the benevolent hand, never revealing the anguish he must face. He had said to me earlier, I might as well go where I am most useful, with the kids. I hate all that waiting. What good is it? He waits for the final phone call from the hospital to bring him the news.

We talk about our past, our families, our ancestors and we paint self-portraits. I cover the side of the lodge with portraits. The wall is becoming the focal point for each student, who brings a friend over to see the latest developments.

We cover the outside of the entire massive south wall with silk. The great silk wall of student faces glistens luminous in the early morning light, we are bonding. Students tell me of their secrets and write them down. One student from South Africa learns to compare the good life, supported by dark hands, whether black or Mexican. Another writes about the addicted father. The issues of abandonment arises again and and again.

They talk about all the houses they've lived in, the house we call home, and the ones we still dream of as home. I learned of the story of the boy whose father kidnapped him, took him to Yugoslavia, until the war force them home. He wears a Stetson hat, writes of secrets, he compares it to government. Always we deal with what passes for truth, and what we know not to be true. Subtext and context.

All of humanity's atrocities are manifest in this small tribal gathering in the deep woods. We share the stories, we bond together, while Jeff is learning to let go.

Tuesday, October 3, 1995

Teaching Notes: Mendocino Woodlands Journal, 3 Oct. OJ Simpson

Mendocino Woodlands, October 5, 1995

During class, despite the fact that we're nearly completely cut off from the world, we learned that O.J. Simpson was acquitted. The shock wave goes through the group. Nicole, my name is Nicole… said a student. He ought to be behind bars. Someone else said Nicole's parents have custody of the children. Imagine believing that O.J. Simpson murdered your daughter and now he wants the children back? 

Tonight my voice begins to fail me; in the business of teaching, it's an occupational hazards. To lose one's voice. A metaphor for the poet attempting to restore authentic voice to her students. I need to protect my throat more. Only two more classes left. It's been an intense week.

The great silk wall nears completion, it is stunning to see so many self-portraits on silk, each one so individualistic. Most of the poetry that the students wrote, was worthless but what to expect with only one session in ninth grade? Developing the poetic voice takes time. I had to let go of my expectations. 

I'm having to fight with kids in order to get them to work, but I also need to realize that I don't have a teacher backup, and I'm holding their attention for three hours on and on my own. It's different than teaching at the Luther Burbank Center because kids want to be there. We are all reeling under the verdict. Something has murdered trust. These children I teach, we are one tribe. The poetry of rage over injustice is on their lips.