AS SIMPLE AS THAT

 

AS SIMPLE AS THAT

my man is away
i am quiet
left behind
with coffee and the cats

i remember back
when i was young
left behind
with drama twisted sheets
an empty bed

like jane
the girl with one eye
and lopsided perspective
she is young
swimming in the pool
of sex
thinking
analyzing
determining
figuring
strategizing
preaching change
blaming
left behind
with the why of it all

she doesn’t know
what being young
is for, to dive
into drama
and love it

to feel the water
thick with scum
coat your skin
to digest
each swallow
each blow
each thrust
each wave
with conviction

i watch jane
kick flail
cry against the current

– move with it –
i say
-before him
i moved with it, let
it snap me about –
she isn’t listening

i don’t tell her
that i let the rock
smoke sex whatever
pull and push me
whenever
wherever

my man
he didn’t come
to me
the current
delivered me
right up
to the empty
barstool
to his right

i looked over
saw his hazel eyes
shaded
with thick black lash

i spoke
he answered
it was as simple as that

**This is a poem from my book, as simple as that

 

Apology

Photo credit Carolyn Ziel

Merriam Webster defines Apology as an admission of error or an expression of regret. This is not the type of apology I receive all that often. And mainly I don’t receive this type of apology from women. Girlfriends.

This morning I made a list. On it are two A’s, a B, two C’s, and two D’s. There are more than three J’s, two L’s and two S’s. There’s an M, and even a Y. The Y for Yvonne. She and I knew each other for a short time in the 90’s.

“Justin said you left this at the apartment,” Yvonne said and plopped a bulging white trash bag on the floor by my desk one morning. She and I worked at the same medical software company. I was the executive assistant to the president. I sat in a cubicle outside of his office in the executive suite. Yvonne was an admin in human resources.

She and I met the weekend I moved into the one bedroom apartment in her building. I shared that apartment with Justin. “You sleep here,” Justin said when he showed me the bedroom. “Where do you sleep?” I asked. “Sofa,” he replied.

It was a big apartment. I was looking for a job. I knew I would find one soon and that during the week I’d be at work. On weekends outside, away, busy. At the beach. By the pool, which was steps from the front door. I was sure I’d never see him. The building was on the alley that butted up to The Cow’s End Coffee shop. I once counted 150 steps from my bedroom to my morning vanilla hazelnut cup of coffee and just 150 more to the sand. To be this close to the beach, I could make it work. “Don’t worry,” he said and smiled “I’m hardly home. And I have a girlfriend.”

Not only was Justin home all the time, he seemed to sleep during the day and cook pork chops in an iron skillet at 2 in the morning. Smoke from his burnt meat hung in the air. He kept the shades drawn day and night. It was like living in a dungeon.

5 1/2 months later I signed the lease for a bright beach front studio on the Esplanade in Redondo.

I didn’t remember leaving anything behind at Justin’s. In fact, I was careful to leave my room in good condition. And if I did forget anything, it couldn’t have been so much as to fill a trash bag.

“What is this?” I said to Yvonne and reached for the bag. It was too heavy to lift from my seat. The white plastic was stretched tight around it’s contents.

“Justin said you left it at the apartment,” she said.

I opened the bag. The smell of rotten-alley-behind-a-restaurant-on-a-busy-Saturday-night filled my cubicle and pushed up into my nose and down my throat. I looked inside. I saw two empty milk cartons, a stick of butter, an open carton of broken eggs, papers, envelopes, a car magazine, empty tuna and sardine cans. I reached in the bag and pulled out an Edison invoice from a bill paid months before. I held up the stained damp paper. It was dripping with egg yolk. A glob of coffee grinds fell from it onto the floor. I looked at Yvonne. This girl had just delivered a bag of garbage to my desk in the executive suite of a 100 million dollar software company. What the fuck?

“Yvonne, can’t you see this is a bag of garbage?” I said.

“I didn’t look inside,” she said.

“I don’t drink milk,” I said. As if that mattered.

“Justin said it was your stuff and he asked me to do him a favor. He’s my friend.”

Yvonne and I were friends. We tripped around Venice together, shopped at the boardwalk, went on long bike rides, lay by the pool on Saturdays and went to the C&O Trattoria with her fiancé Mark. We drank too much from the honor bar, sang That’s Amore and clinked glasses. It was Yvonne who told me about this job.

“Aren’t we friends?” I asked.

Yvonne never apologized.

I’m sure at the time I was upset about it. I might have called Justin. I might have said something to the girls I worked with. I might have, but the truth is, I don’t remember. It’s not as vivid a scene as you might think. I don’t even remember that much about her. We were friends for what, six months? I remember she was pretty in a nondescript way. I don’t remember her being intelligent. I mean this is a girl that delivers a bag of garbage to someone at a place of business. Who does that?

I moved on. I do that, I move on. I fold the experience, tuck it away, file it and store it in the back of my closet. I didn’t plan on pulling it out today, but I stumbled over it on my way to some other story about some other girlfriend who did some other thing and forgot to apologize.

Delivering garbage to me at work isn’t the worse offense. It’s stupid, yes. It’s a nasty thing to do. She could have said no. The normal person would have said, ‘Uh, yeah, I can’t bring a bag of garbage into work, sorry dude.’ I have a feeling Yvonne might not have been that type of girl. I have a feeling she was unhappy. That she and Mark might not have made it as a couple. He might have cheated on her. Maybe they never even got married. She complained about him a lit. He didn’t buy her flowers. He didn’t want to plan set a date, plan a wedding. She hated his stack of Playboy and Penthouse on their coffee table. He flirted with other women. I think he flirted with me. Maybe I was a threat. I’m not saying I was, I don’t think I was his type. I have a feeling Yvonne wasn’t his type either. I didn’t think much of Mark. Guys with stacks of girlie mags never did do it for me. Besides, I was dating Lasher at the time. He was good in bed, although I’m pretty sure he was gay.

Trash is easy. You clean up the coffee grinds. You throw it away. It was a long time ago. It’s just a thing that happened. A story. An incident that didn’t leave a scar. The Y in a long list of letters.

Here’s another definition of apology: something that is said or written to defend something.

That’s the type of apology I receive most often. The “I’m sorry but…” The apologoy that implies it’s my fault. That I made them do it. As if I’m the devil.

Drifters

 

It’s early evening on a Tuesday. Bill is in the kitchen heating the soup I made on Sunday. Flanken beef with carrots and broccoli. The sun sits higher in the sky than it did two weeks ago at this time. I’m on the sofa. A cup of tea steeps on the end table, a book of Billy Collins’ poetry open to my right, my journal on my lap. I like the sound this pen makes as I scratch it across the page.

I’m in a bubble.

Like the bubble Bill and I float in when we walk along the beach on one of those ocean and sky days. Or when we go to the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning for apples and bread. Or when we sail, the hull of our boat skimming through the waves, dolphins at the bow.

It is ordinary and I want to stay here forever.

My girlfriend Lena used to come over to our house. She’d hug me, call out a hello to Bill and make her way into my kitchen. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something about her energy, spindly, splintered, disruptive. It was as if she didn’t fit in our home. “You don’t mind do you?” she’d say as she foraged in our refrigerator for almonds.“Do you have any of that green tea I like?”

“I don’t think Lena fits in our house,” I said to Bill one early evening after she left. She pushed at our walls, as if she took up all the empty space.

“You may be right,” he said.

Yesterday my friend Natalie came over. She toasted the bagel she bought at the farmer’s market. I made us tea. We sat at the kitchen table.  I watched her small hands as she dabbed at the crumbs on her plate with her index finger and put them to her lips and licked. Bill came home from work. He gave us each a hug and went into his office.

“Natalie fits in our house,” I said to Bill after she left. Natalie makes herself at home in our home. She knows where the plates are, reaches for a mug, puts her dishes in the sink after we’ve finished our tea. She offers me half of her bagel. Her energy is easy, effortless, trouble-free.

Its funny, how some people fit and others don’t.

 

 

On this Tuesday night, the sounds of writing echo in the living room, the smells of soup swirl in the kitchen, and I can’t help but wonder about bubbles.  How they slip through time. How they tap into other bubbles, bounce off or connect. Travel on in clumps of two or three or more. How their permeable skin shimmers iridescent in the sun.

bubbles two

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

 

 

The Prescription *

 

My friend Jill posted a picture of Steve Bannon on Facebook with his quote, “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.” Jill’s comment was “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” My response was “hash tag medical marijuana.”steve bannon devil

I was kidding when I wrote it. But on Tuesday afternoon at 4:30, as the sun skidded the sky with Caribbean color, I pulled into a strip mall in Wilmington, off Pacific Coast Highway, for an appointment to get my prescription. Five storefronts lined the parking lot. A liquor store and the medical clinic were the only two that weren’t vacant, and a guy with his hands in his pockets loitered in a shadowy corner. I thought about driving away, but I got out of the car, put my purse on my shoulder and walked to a door with white block lettering: PCH Medical Clinic.

The office was cold. The walls were ghost white. My boots clicked on the dark brown parquet floors.

“Hi,” I said to the twenty-something girl sitting at a desk in a small office behind a window. “I called earlier.”

She looked up at me and smiled. “I’ve never done this before,” I said. I’d googled medical marijuana doctors. This place had 5 1/2 stars on Yelp.

The girl gave me some forms to fill out. I checked off the symptoms anxiety, stress and insomnia, and ticked depression and back pain for good measure. I signed several waivers promising not to drive under the influence or operate heavy machinery, and not to sell, redistribute or share my marijuana.

When I gave her my completed paperwork, I noticed an ATM in the corner. “Do you take credit cards?”

“No,” she said. “The appointment is $50 cash, if you have the coupon. It’ll be $65 without it. You’ll need cash for the dispensary, too.” I got $200 from the machine.

I didn’t wait more than five minutes before she called for me. As I followed her into the back I heard the ring of a Skype call. She brought me into an office with an oak desk. On it sat a computer monitor and a mouse.

“He’s not here?” I said.

She wiggled the mouse, connected the call and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. I sat down and smiled at myself in the small box at the bottom of the screen, pale in my black Equinox t-shirt. My mouth was dry. I put my purse on my lap and folded my hands over it.

“Hello,” said a face on the screen. He was bald, shiny and overexposed. He wore a white lab coat and looked up at me through gold wire-framed glasses. I took him to be in his early 70s. “Can you hear me?” he asked.

“Yes, hello.”

“So.” He looked down at the forms twenty-something girl must have faxed to him. “How long have you had insomnia?”

“On and off for a couple of months.” I lied.

“And you have some back pain?” He was writing.

“My lower back,” I said. That was true, I’d just come from the chiropractor.

“How long have you been depressed?”

One of the definitions for depression is low in spirits. Another is vertically flattened. I felt both. My anxiety was real. But I didn’t want him to think I needed a shrink and meds or I wouldn’t get my weed.

I made the decision to get the prescription after a white delivery truck barreled toward me in traffic that morning. I had to swerve and jump a lane to get out of its trajectory. That’s when I burst. I couldn’t stop crying. The level of the swamp out there is getting high and there’s a riptide pulling me out to sea. I didn’t want to cry here, in front of the Skype Doctor, let my guard down. I needed to be calm. Explain in a mature tone that I just needed a little soft focus.

“Here’s the thing,” I said. “I’m not officially depressed. It’s more like I’m stressed.” I paused. He kept writing. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I wanted to be cool. “It’s not like I want to be stoned all the time. I mean I heard that there’s this stuff that just takes the edge off, you know, without being super stoney.” My heart skipped and slipped into my stomach. I felt awkward. I looked at myself on the screen and took a breath. Tried to gather my thoughts. Stay calm.

“The truth is,” I said, “this election, well, the outcome and everything has me really freaked out.” Shit, I didn’t mean to say that. What if he voted for the guy? He could be one of those people that says, “Hey we put up with Obama for eight years and we survived.”

A penny lay on the desk by the monitor. If a penny lands heads up, its good luck. If it’s tails, I flip it over, give someone else a chance to find a little luck. I needed some luck. These days, everyone I care about, that I’m close to, can use a little luck. A little softness. A little kindness. A little ease. Luck that lets you know you’ll be fine. Everything will be okay. Gives solace. The kind of luck that’s light. Light like compassion, peace, hope. I reached for the penny. Tossed it. Tails. I flipped it over.

The doctor stopped writing and looked up at me. I hoped he’d give me my prescription and I could buy some liquid miracle and a vape pen. Some Acapulco gold, purple haze or amnesia. That’s what I needed.

“Tell me about it” he said. “These are some crazy times.” He smiled a soft smile. “You can pick up your prescription at the front desk.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes,” he said, and the call was disconnected. I took a deep breath and exhaled for what felt like the first time in weeks.* medicalm

* Previously Published in Writers Resist

The Crunch of Earth Underfoot **

 

“I woke up to one dot,” the woman’s voice drifted from the sunlight into the corner where I sat. I sipped my coffee shaded by pines, on a black leather sofa outside of the kitchen. Breakfast was being prepared. I could smell the bacon cooking.

“I tried it over here,” a softer voice said. It floats. “But still no service. You have to walk up to the gate, where the cars are parked and then you’ll get service.”

This morning, I walked that road. I wound myself around the trees. I breathed in their pine needles and

Road to Inn at the Lake Connamarra

Road to The Inn at the Lake Connamarra

vanilla. The early morning chill. I listened to the crunch of the gravel gravel-road-glint-of-light

gravel-road-glint-of-lightunder my feet and I wondered about roads like this. Roads that lead to cabins with wood shingles and windows that wink at you as you walk by. Big open windows that let everything in and nothing out.

We had a house like that once, an A-frame in Lake Arrowhead. I’d sleep in a hammock stretched out between four trees, the sun tawny on my cheeks. My dad would drive us up the hill in his brown and white van, my mother by his side, my sister and me in the swivel seats in the back.

In high school I invited my girlfriends up for weekends. In college I’d bring my boyfriends, Ted Forbath and Mike Gallagher. Even though I knew how to get there, my dad mailed me Memo’s with directions: how to drive to the house, how to unlock it, how to call the Lake Arrowhead patrol so they could plow, turn the heat on, or do a spider check. I wish I’d kept those memorandums, typed on thick Warner Bros. stock.

We waterskied and drank our vitamin c with Champagne and Absolute. We lay on the dock, me and my sister, comparing our tan lines.

“You’ve got to learn how to relax, Ca.” My dad calls to me from the boat snug in its slip.

“Daaaaad!” I say. “Very funny.”

The summer I learned how to drive my dad took us four wheeling in the orange GMC Jimmy, that he outfitted with a red bug catcher and a pewter bull dog on the hood. My sister and I bounced in our seats, our laughter trailed behind us on dirt roads like a wake behind a boat.

I thought we’d have that house forever.

Today as I walked along the gravel road, the crunch of earth underfoot, the splash of memory on my skin I remembered that tomorrow I will outlive my father.

me-and-dad-maui

Me and my Dad…Maui … ’78 or ’79?

 

 

** Written at the Glint of Light workshop at the Inn at the Lake, Connamarra, Hope BC.
**My father passed away September 12, 1988

A Clown Walked Into My Bedroom…

A clown walked into my bedroom. It was 4pm on a Saturday.

That’s a lie.

A clown didn’t walk into my bedroom. It walked into the room I was in and I was in a bed. I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday. I think it was a Saturday because the day before, on the Friday, before sunset, a lady Rabbi walked in with two battery operated Shabbat candles and a loaf of cholla. As to the time, I’m guessing there.

I didn’t see the clown walk into the room.I opened my eyes and there it was. When I saw the clown standing in the doorway I closed my eyes. Waited a moment or three, and opened them again. The clown didn’t go away. In fact, in those three moments, it moved closer. It stood right at the foot of my bed.

clown

This Clown Walks Into …

I’m not afraid of clowns, but looking at this one with it its purple and orange satin oversized jumpsuit, ruffled collar, yellow Elton John glasses, white pancake makeup face, blood red lips and wild orange wig and a small red dot at the tip of its nose, well, in that moment, I understood the phobia.

“You know,” I said. “People hate clowns.”

“I know,” the clown says, “I have permission.”

Permission? From the nurses? The doctors? The old patient down the hall that screams at everyone and throws things at the nurses? I feel bad for the nurses and I tell them so. They’re nice, all except for the cranky one.

“Why are you here?” I push myself up. I have to use both hands and it hurts like nobody’s business. This isn’t a complaint. It’s a fact. Just that morning they wheeled me down to radiology, put me on my stomach, and drilled a hole in the left cheek of my derriere. Something about draining an abscess in my gut, like I’m some kind of engine block and they’re the car mechanics.

“You can watch if you like,” the nurse had said and pointed to the monitor above my head and to the right. I don’t think so. I’m on my stomach, in a cold white room. They had to use an x-ray machine or something so they could see what they were doing—guide the tube to the correct place above my stomach and to the right, or the left. I don’t know. “That’s okay,” I said to the nurse. “But you can give me more drugs.” She obliged and shot something into my IV. I was getting used to the icy liquid of morphine shooting through my veins, my heart skipping a beat and forgetting to breathe.  She held my hand during the procedure. I squeezed tight.  She was a good nurse.

The clown doesn’t tell me why it’s in my room. Instead it reaches into its clown pocket and pulls out something wrapped in cellophane. The clown walks closer to me and I push myself harder, away from the clown and into my raised the bed.

“Here,” the clown says and pushes a pale veined hand at me. She reveals a red nose wrapped in cellophane.“This is for you.”

Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle. I flinch and it hurts. I take the nose from the clown. “Thank you.” I lay it on the table to the right of my bed, next to my cell phone.

“If you put your nose on,” the clown points to the nose. “We can take a picture together for Facebook.”

Are you kidding me right now? I don’t post pictures of myself when I’m sick. I’m just not one of those people. I don’t post pictures of chicken soup with captions that say, “I’m sick”.  I don’t post status updates that say, “Got a stomach bug” or “Hey, I’ve got food poisoning, guess where I am?” I had been in this hospital bed too long, my hair was greasy and I looked pretty green. No amount of make up would make me Facebook-photo-ready.

“No thanks,” I say.

The clown won’t leave.

“Can I take a picture of you?” I ask the morphine-clown.

“Of course,” the clown seems happy with this.

I snap the picture. I thank the clown and I close my eyes.

When I wake up it is dark. The room is quiet. I reach for my cell phone.

Kindness Breeds Kindness

Something President Obama said in a speech last week has me thinking. He said: “Kindness breeds kindness”. He said it in regard to the current climate of the presidential campaign.  Simple, yet powerful.

Aloha Flying Big Red

His remarks sparked thought about spirituality.  Recently, some some self proclaimed ‘spiritually awakened’ individuals have been, as my Grandmother would say, out of line. Sharp tongues, twisted snipes and cuts, judgement, some gossip and just plain one-upmanship threw me for a loop.

I did some writing, looked to see how I might have contributed to the tango. I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes  my practice is just staying centered and sending love, even in the face of, well, nastiness.

Obama’s remarks struck a chord. I know he was talking about the election, but it’s more. I wonder if we haven’t gotten lost in the how and forgotten the simple what–that Kindness Breeds Kindness.  Whether your spiritual process is to light candles and chant, burn incense and smudge, consult crystals and spirit guides, shouldn’t matter. For my husband sailing is a spiritual experience, or a great scuba dive. For some it’s a hike. For me it’s a walk along the ocean, meditating, or journaling. Sometimes I light a candle and prey. I do different things at different times.

What matters is intention.

Are you coming from loving kindness? Or are you trying to prove something? Be better than the person next to you? More spiritual. More powerful. More more more, fill in the blank. Spirituality shouldn’t be egocentric, it should be heart centered.

I once wrote an article about how women judge women for my blog on the Huffington Post. I have been judged for lots of things in my life: my body, how I conduct business and my spirituality. I’ve been told I’m a ‘spiritual anti-christ’ (what does that even mean?), that I’m not in touch with my inner goddess and I’ve even been accused of not liking mermaids–(Who doesn’t like mermaids?) (And how does that relate to spirituality? I don’t know, but that was the context of the jab.) I have judged too. I am not perfect. I have a LEO-ego I have to keep in check for sure!

How a person expresses their spirituality is personal. It shouldn’t be a competition. And, if you’re starting with loving kindness, who cares how or what or when you ‘practice’.

Kindness Breeds Kindness.

Being spiritual is being kind, spreading kindness, coming from a place of love.

Fear Vs. Love.

If I’m not in love, but in fear, I will lash out, judge. That’s human nature. Because when we are afraid we are out of love (Yes Marianne Williamson) and it’s hard to not judge, not to compare, not to go to good vs. bad, right vs. wrong. If I’m afraid, I defend, compare, compete. I am in my ego, not my heart. Stepping into love, just that, is a spiritual act. Making that choice. Taking that breath and centering.  We move from the oneness, disconnectedness, the aloneness of ego and fear into the vastness of being connected to whatever it is that you believe in and LOVE.

Spirituality doesn’t have to be complicated. And it sure as shit shouldn’t be competitive.

If you know me, you’ve heard me joke about how my business is my spiritual practice. And it is. It has taught me to be patient, to be kind, to trust, to have faith, to slow down, to walk away, to breathe in love and to be in service. Practice kindness, in an email, a phone call, a conversation.

redondo spoiriIn the end, whatever I’m doing to be ‘spiritual’, whatever you’re doing to be spiritual, shouldn’t it be rooted in love and kindness?

Kindness breeds kindness.
It is a beautiful practice.
Kindness breeds kindness.

With love and light
Practice well
and
Write on

carolyn first only sig

Breach

whale breach

One of the reasons whales burst out of the water, reach back, twist and splash back through the blue stained glass surface is to knock off dead barnacles from their skin. Cold water barnacles attach themselves to the whales in the waters of Alaska and die when the whales move through warmer seas.

 

I rise
like this whale.
I break through
twist, turn, flip,
towards sky.
I splash down
all white foam
and spray.
The ghosts
that have attached
themselves
to my back
like barnacles,
parasites that feed
on my soul,
finally
they fall
back into the sea.

Blood Spatter

I have always liked a clean floor. It might have something to do with the way I was raised. When I was growing up our floors were spotless and the carpet was vacuumed each day. You could see paw prints from our 8 pound cat indented into the plush carpet.

IMG_20151023_072907737 copy

Mahalo

I ask that people remove their shoes before they come into our home. I placed a ceramic plaque I bought in Hawaii by our front door that reads: “Maholo for removing your slippers…(But no take mo’ bettah ones when you leave!)”

I know people make fun of me. That’s okay. I know where their feet have been. They’ve been to the alley behind a favorite restaurant to get to that secret parking place no one else knows about. They’ve been in the restroom at the airport or worse, the toilet on a plane. They’ve been to the doggie park, the gym and the gas station.

Most people are good about taking off their shoes. They’ll leave them outside at the front door or step onto the doormat inside and take off their shoes.  There are those individuals that will walk in to our home without thinking and wander into the living room. I have to remind them to ‘please take off their shoes.’

After a dinner party I’ll grab my Commercial Grade Microfiber Dust Mop from the hall closet, secure a clean mop pad to the Velcro backing and polish the floors. You’d be surprised at the number of crumbs that drop from an Hors d’oeuvres on the way to someone’s mouth or the particles that fall from dinner plates and forks onto the floor.

There are exceptions to any rule, of course, and I’ve had shoes-on parties. These are usually catered events. We set out tables in the back yard, set up a bar on the driveway and let people have the run of the property. We leave the doors open and lock the cats away in a back room. Once we even had dancing. Someone wore black rubber soled shoes that night. After the last guest left, I went through the house and rubbed until each scuffmark was erased.

I like walking on clean floors with clean feet.

These days I spend a lot of time on my hands and knees cleaning droplets of blood from the floors. Our cat has a tumor growing inside of his mouth. It pushes against his teeth and his tongue. After he eats, blood pools at the corner of his mouth, drips to the floor and leaves droplets smaller than a pea, the size of a blueberry or as big as a nickel.

Blood isn’t always red. It can be crimson, or maroon or rosewood. Blood clings to things. I clean the floor by the cat’s food dish, near the back door where he sits and cackles at squirrels and crows. I clean under the kitchen table where he naps in the late afternoon. I clean outside our bedroom door where he guards us at night.

There is blood splatter all over our house.

I use a mixture of Murphy’s Oil Soap and water to spray each droplet. I wait for the molecules to dissolve, I watch them loosen their grip. Then I wipe. Sometimes I’ll wind my way through the house following the trail of blood, stopping at each cluster to spray. Then I’ll loop my way back around and rub each spot clean.

I’ve been called neurotic. Maybe I’m compulsive. I don’t care.  Every day I clean my floors. I’ve perfected my process. Cleaning blood has become an art form.

Fred the Beautiful

My Red Bench

This morning I brought my coffee and my journal to the porch and sat on my bench. I love my bench. Not long after we moved in to our house I saw that the neighbors two doors down from us had a bench and I wanted one too. Their bench was honeydew green and had two white canvas accent pillows. It sat on the front porch under, what I assume to be, their kitchen window.

My Red Bench

My Red Bench

I wouldn’t call our neighborhood modern. In fact, except for the trees and a few over-the-top remodels, if you were to drive down our street, you might think it was 1956.  Most of the homes on our block have grass and maybe a brick pathway that leads from the curb or the driveway to the front steps.

The house with the honeydew green bench had curb appeal. One of the two women that lived there was rumored to be a landscape architect. She designed her front yard in sections with rock borders and exotic plants and a winding slate path that led you to the front of the house. When Bill and I first moved in, we’d walk over and take pictures of their plants so we could buy them and plant them in front of our house.

“I want a bench,” I said to Bill. We were standing in front of their house. I snapped a picture of their bench.

“I don’t know why they have that bench.”  Bill said. “I’ve never even seen them sit on it.”

“You don’t know.” I said and turned to Bill. “They might sit on it when we’re not looking.”

“We don’t need a bench.” Bill said. He was standing with his arms crossed staring at the house.

“It’s curb appeal.” I said. “I want a bench.”

Bill turned toward me. “You probably won’t ever sit on it.” He said.

“I’m buying a bench.” I said. Bill rolled his eyes. He turned and headed back to our house. I followed.

He stopped at the foot of our driveway and crossed his arms. I caught up and we stood there for a few moments looking at our home.

“I’ll go on line to that garden store, Smith & Hawken.” I said. “I bet that’s where they got their bench.”

“Don’t.” He said. “I’ll build you a bench.” I reached up on my tiptoes, kissed his cheek, and walked up the driveway to the house.

Bill built me a sturdy pine bench. I helped him paint it. We chose candy apple red. She sits at the end of our porch under the kitchen window. I bought two black pillows with white piping and lean into them as I write and sip coffee in the mornings. In the summer, our neighbors Susie and Jerry join us for cocktails or beers. Bill and Jerry stand in the driveway and talk about boy things like boats and the weather and motorcycles while Susie and I sit and page through the latest Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn catalogue. Bill and I sit on our bench and watch the rain. On warm nights, sit and we’ll look at the stars and talk. I love my red bench.

The two women have since moved and a couple bought the house. He’s tall and she has platinum blonde hair. I rarely see them. The lawn is dying and the plants look tired and thirsty.  The porch is empty.

The View From My Bench

The View From My Bench

We’ve gone drought resistant. Our gardener planted lots of colorful dwarf trees and shrubs like Dwarf Day Lillies, California Redbuds, Dusty Millers, Evergreen Current and Fairy Lilacs.  What once was our lawn is now river of grey sand and rock with blue grass accents that runs through pea gravel the color of the beach on a rainy day. When Bill gets home from work, we’ll sit on our red bench and watch the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds drift from flower to flower.

This morning I brought my coffee, my journal and one of my black pillows with white piping outside. I sat on my red bench. The air was thick. The clouds hung low and heavy in the pink and blue sky. A woman walked by with her dog and waved. I waved back.  A man jogged pass on the other side of the street. A white Toyota slowed down in front of our house and stopped. I noticed the driver lean toward the passenger side window and aim her phone at our front yard. I think she was taking a picture.

A View From My Bench

The View From My Bench