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

Ekphrastic — Midsummer’s Eve

 

Firebombs and Fairies

I’ll just hide here in this lantern, thank you very much.

I don’t like crowds, especially crowds of drunken naked fairies looking to cause trouble. They make fun of me because I don’t like to join

Midsummer's Eve Robert Edward Hughes

Midsummer’s Eve
Robert Edward Hughes

in their mischief. I don’t care. I’m used to the taunts. “Baby! Baby! Hughie is a Baby!!!”

I don’t care.

Cain is trying to get me out of this lantern. It’s the only safe place. The lantern. I made a beeline for it when we got here. I bet a small flock of fairies were swinging from it and it came crashing down, the fairies tumbling and laughing all the while. I’m just glad that I found this lantern. I’m not coming out. It’s enough I’m here at all. God, Jewish guilt is the worst.

Earlier this evening, I was reading in bed, catching up on my New Yorker’s sipping a cup of Chai tea when Cain came into my room.

“Hey.” He said. “Aren’t you going to come to the solstice celebration?”

“No” I said. Last year’s solstice party turned ugly. A riot broke out when the keg ran dry and some crazy fairy almost ripped my wings off my back. Booze and firebombs just don’t mix.  “Remember last year?” I asked. “No way I’m subjecting myself to that again.” I turned my attention back to the magazine.

“Come on.” He walked over and sat next to me. He pulled the New Yorker out of my hand and tossed it on the floor.  “Hey, I was reading Ellen Bass’ new poem.” I said.

“What is it with you?” he asked. “Why are you such downer?”

“I’m not a downer.” I said. I know that I was disappointing as an older brother. I wanted to be better. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to be able to relax, be myself and have fun with the other fairies. I just couldn’t. I didn’t know how.

It was going to be a nice evening.  The solstice sun was setting. It was warm and the sky was a kaleidoscope of pink, orange, and violet.  A white mother of pearl guitar pick lay on the floor by my window. The changing colors of the sky seemed to bounce off the pick and bathe the walls of my room in a rainbow glow.  I had found the trinket on yesterday’s beach walk. I love picking up little treasures. I have glass bowls of rocks and shells and lucky pennies all over my bedroom. The pick was a great find. I guess Mr. Taco must have swatted the it onto the floor. Cats will play with anything except their cat toys. Ahhhh a cat’s life–the world is their scratching post. Oh to be a house cat.

Cain didn’t need me tonight. He’s stronger than he knows and quite able to go to the celebration without me.  He shouldn’t care if I come or not. “You don’t need me.” I said.

“I do,” he said. “I want to get into the Fairy Fraternity.” He said. “They want you to be there too. If you don’t it will reflect badly on our family.  You have to go or else I might not get accepted in the frat.” He stood up. “Come on.” He said. “Get up and come with me. Please.” He said.

I shook my head. I pulled the covers up and over my head.

“Please.” He said and yanked the covers down. “Please. Please! PLEEEEAAAASSSSEEEE!” He said.

“God.” I said. “You are such a whiner!”

“It’s really important to me.” He said. “You have to come. I just have to get into the Fraternity. I have to!!!”

I’m such a sucker. Once again here I am doing something for someone else and sacrificing myself in the process. I have to learn how to say no. This isn’t good for me. My cortisol levels are rising. I can feel it. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Maybe if I focus on this red light. Breathe. Focus on the light. Breathe. I need to calm down. Maybe if I concentrate hard enough I can just will myself gone.

Uh oh, is that Fairy Constantine over there with a fireball? It looks like he’s going to throw it my way.

I gotta get out of here.

Breathe, breathe, focus, and breathe. Relax. I’m a fairy aren’t I? There must be some powers I have, right? Can’t fairies just blink their eyes and disappear?

Shit, what’s the point of wings if you can’t even fly?

**Thank you to two AMAZING writers, Josh Grapes and Lisa Segal. Their unique workshop BEYOND THE FRAME brought this fun piece to me…and I see many more on the horizon… 

Journal Entry: August 31, 2014

Journal Entry:  August 31, 2014

 

I had a good childhood.

me and dad Maui, maybe 79 or 80

Me and Dad Maui Circa 79 or 80

I grew up on movie sets. My Dad was a Production Manager back when you broke down a script using colored cardboard strips. Wemoved from New York to Beverly Hills. “Stepford Wives” was in the can but I still got to brush Katherine Ross’ strawberry blonde hair and help her bake cookies in her Malibu kitchen. I loved how her bathing suit bottoms never matched her tops.  When my Dad was working on “Murder by Death” he arranged for me to meet Angie Dickenson and Earl Holliman. “Police Woman” was my favorite show and it was a way bigger deal than meeting David Niven, Truman Capote or Maggie Smith. Although it was pretty neat to watch Colombo rehearse the same line over and over and over again.

It wasn’t just me. My Dad brought lots of people up in the movie business. He got them jobs, got them training, got them in the union.

Then the script took a dark turn. An unexpected diagnosis. A first surgical procedure doesn’t go as planned. Lake Arrowhead-chemo-recovery-weekends and my Dad’s healthy vital glow mask the executioner. A Second surgery and still Cancer drills deep and takes root.

All scenes led to that final diagnosis.
Seven days left to say goodbye.

“Did you get the shot?” He asked. From his bedside at Cedars, I could see the Hollywood sign, white against the Indian summer hillside.  I held his hand. It felt heavy.

“We did.” I replied.

Cut. Print. That’s a wrap.

That was 1988.

Man of Destiny

Roger M. Rothstein

It took a bit of time, but now I can feel into the gift that is my father. Not just my gift–I still get emails, letters and Facebook posts: I miss him every day; I found a picture of him; There was no one quite like Roger.

I can look in the mirror and see him in the round of my face, the beauty mark on my cheek and my dark hair and eyes. His energy courses through my veins as I negotiate with a tough client.

If my father weren’t where he is, somewhere out there, I wouldn’t be where I am now.  Who knows, maybe he is here, hovering over my right shoulder as I type.

This is my life.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Hello Moon**

Journal Entry:  August 11, 2014

 

full moon morning

Full Moon Morning

I stepped out onto the back porch this morning and looked up to see the moon, still full, setting in the sky. I don’t recall a full moon ever on an August 11th, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t ever happened.

Today is my birthday.

“What a nice surprise.” I tell the moon.

“Sure thing!” He says.  “Happy Birthday!”

“Thank you.” I say

That moon-man smiling down on me, greeting me on my special day, makes me think about how long I have been here. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve looked up and smiled at him in my five decades and one year.

I had my coffee, my vanilla protein shake with an organic peach and I wrote in my journal.  I left the house happy.  I drove through emptier-than-normal-for-a-Monday streets and parked in the almost vacant lot by my spinning studio.  I was greeted upstairs with smiles and birthday wishes.

During class, our instructor Mandy said, “Grab your water and grab your breath.” I don’t know if she meant to say grab, but that’s what I heard.

I looked over the parking lot, to the palm trees and couldn’t help but think about the word.  Grab.

What have I grabbed for in my life? What else will I reach for and grab? I grab a ripe Meyer lemon from our tree in the back yard — twist and pull.  I pluck opportunities as they ripen on their vines. What will I reach for next?

At 51, I am still like a child that picks and chooses what to discover and explore next.  Although, I haven’t had to grab for that much; the important, life-changing things come to me.

I get clear.
I ask.
I let go.
I receive.

It seems easy and in a way it is, but there is the work of getting clear and letting go, sometimes it can be a challenge. Although, at this place it isn’t as much work as it was when I was in another place.

That’s what happened with Bill.  It’s not that we didn’t reach for each other.  We did.  It’s how we came to be within each other’s reach, in that particular instant, that I find interesting.

I’ve written about it many times, it was as simple as that.

Why does the moon smile down on me?
Why did Bill and I get swaddled together in that moment?
Why am I blessed with this life?

I don’t know that I have answers for these questions.  I may never.  I’m good with that.  I’ll unwrap full moon birthday wishes, and magic instead of answers.

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

** Excerpt from the book that I am currently writing.

 

 

Morning Ritual **

Every morning the woman would wake before her husband.  She would leave him behind, snoring, and make her way to the kitchen to make him his coffee.  Once the coffee was brewing, she’d go out to her garden.

One grey morning in May, she heard the back door open and close.  She looked up from a stubborn weed she had been working to see her husband standing on the back porch, coffee in hand.  Happy for the company, she looked back to the weed.

“I think we should end this,” he said.  She was gripping at the stubborn weed in her right hand, pushing the earth with her left until it let go with a final tug and she tossed it to the side.  She sat back on her heels. They had been together for twenty-two years.  They had grooved into their routine.  She spent most days gardening or running errands and he spent his days doing whatever it was he did.  She wasn’t sure.  He went out with the boys twice a week, on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and she’d do laundry, or read, or knit.  She enjoyed knitting, even in the summer.  She felt her heart flutter, skip a beat and her stomach felt tight.  She gasped a little for her breath.  “What?” she said.  She gulped for air. “What?”

coffee mug garden

The next morning the house was quiet.  The day before, her husband had packed his clothes, toiletries and his favorite vinyl records in boxes, loaded them into the back of his pick up truck and drove away. She walked into the kitchen and filled the red teakettle.  She sat at the kitchen table staring out at her garden waiting for the kettle to boil.  She noticed her husband had left his favorite coffee mug on the back porch

**This was a piece I wrote this year in the poet Richard Jones‘ workshop.
He is an amazing poet and teacher.