Monday, September 15, 2014

Empire of The Summer Moon: A Response


You should know right away that I'm all in- 100% head over brains and heart in and an avid lover of this book. This book, man. Should have won that Pulitzer.

Look at the cover. Look at the face of Quanah Parker and you know that in the hands of any half respectable historian of this time period, any writer of moderate talents, this is going to be a fascinating story. In the hands of S.C. Gwynne we are transported heart and mind to 1833 and the story of the birth of America- bloody, physical, emotionally heart wrenching and for many, unasked for- and the fight to the death between Indians and white Americans and Mexicans. The outlines of this are familiar to anyone with a basic education, even more so to anyone with an interest in American history, but the total immersion into the heartbeat of the breath to breath, body to blow, life to death moments of this time has been masterfully crafted by S.C. Gwynne. This author- I'd never heard of him, nor read any of his work- has not only built this story for us block by block of valid fact and historical data, but he has also infused the sentences with a deep understanding of human nature, a deep respect for all parties involved in this epic struggle, and an overall devotion to what really happened and not, as with many historical accounts, an noticeable agenda to push, perspective to prove. Here, he might say, is a bold, brilliant and beautiful act from this man, and in the next paragraph he might add, Here is a terrible act of selfish brutism from the same.

In the beginning of our story, there were many tribes of Indians living in the West, and a small but long standing Mexican population. Right away, we understand if we did not already that there were no such thing as 'Indians' so far as one people who lived and fought and socialized and believed in a similar way. The Navajo, for example, wove blankets ( blankets that were eventually worth 10 buffalo hides for every one Navajo blanket ) grazed sheep and feared death. The Comanche, the Indian tribe this book navigates from, killed buffalo, made everything they owned primarily from every part of the buffalo ( raw buffalo liver, squirted with gallbladder bile and eaten, was especially prized ) and were the most feared, skilled and deadly horseback warriors in America.

The story of the Comanche raid on the Parker clan in Texas is bone chilling and a sobering wake up for anyone who thought this recounting was going to be interesting without breaking your heart. The Comanche- and Kiowa tribe members- killed some of the Parkers ( whose menfolk had left them inexplicably exposed to Indian attack, despite the fact that they were very aware of the Indian raids on American settlements, they had left the barricade doors wide open while the men went out to work ) and took two women and three children captive- one child was the blonde haired blue eyed Cynthia Ann Parker. Gwynne leaves no details unspoken, and so we read- I wept- of the violent raping of the women while the children were forced to watch, the beatings of all the captives, and then the way they slept that night- faced down on the dirt, hog tied. One of the smallest captives was a toddler boy who was beaten so badly his mother did not believe he could survive, though survive he did.

This is how Cynthia Ann Parker was introduced to the Comanche tribe, the tribe that eventually adopted her and married her to Peta Nocona, a powerful chief who gave Cynthia Ann three children, one of them Quanah, the last great Comanche leader. Quanah doesn't seriously show up in this book until half way through or more, but when he does, he is a formidable presence: outrageously courageous, a brilliant horseman, an orphan at a young age left with his brother Peanuts ( named after his mother's favorite snack before her captivity ) until Peanuts died also, then left truly alone and drifting through the tribe until manhood and his obvious warrior skills began his ascent to a great Comanche leader, the last to surrender to the white man, a central figure in the Civil War, and a great leader even after life on the reservation. 

The story of Quanah's mother is fascinating on its own, and I found many short books on Amazon regarding Cynthia Ann Parker. Captured by white soldiers in a battle that killed her husband, the chief Peta Nocona, and wrenched her away from her two young sons and a life of freedom forever, she and her two year old daughter, Prairie Flower, were returned to the vestiges of the Cynthia's white family, where Cynthia wept and cut herself and her hair in a traditional grieving process. She tried to escape back to her tribe many times. Eventually, Prairie Flower ( famously photographed nursing at her mothers bare breast not long after captivity ) died of disease, and not long after, so did Cynthia Ann. 

The detailed, prolonged recounting of torture scenes recorded in historical journals ( such as the famous journal of one of the Parker women who was kidnapped, Rachel- she was 19 and kept a regular journal during her entire captivity until her death ) involving children, especially in the first half of this book, make it very difficult for me to imagine re-reading this important piece of history. I had no idea. I had no idea that women and children were kidnapped and tortured as frequently as they were, homesteaders and pioneers. One of the reasons this book achieves the profound resonance that it does both intellectually and emotionally is that the author does not shy away from questions which he himself has no clear cut answer for, but that the events clearly call for. What is the meaning of morality? What is it to be a human being? How can we understand the Comanches, their brutal torturing of not only whites, but all tribe members they war with- they are a warrior society, with no culture to speak of, no real organization or religion, just a general fear of the spirits they believed lurked in everything, from rock to rabbit- as human beings?  What is civilized

As I mulled this over I spoke to Mr. Curry often about my thoughts, and he responded with ( what I know is ) his signature nonchalant, deep insights into human nature. He talked to me about the nature of war, the nature of groups of humans, the nature of survival, of how our cultural beliefs shape us before we can blink.

Of course, the things that would fall under ' I had no idea ' during my reading of this book are numerous, my ignorance was more than I realized. I had no idea that children about three and under were lanced and shot with arrows during raids or while taking captives, because they were more trouble than they were 'worth', while older children could just as easily be adopted into the tribe and treated with love and respect and end up adoring the very peoples who kidnapped them, as they could end up being regularly beaten and tortured ( having nose, eyes and mouth burnt to almost gone was common ) raped and eventually killed. There are two torture scenes in this book that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I will never forget. The kind of suffering that was inflicted on these groups in each scenario is truly, beyond comprehension. Beyond what my little brain can bear to know. I had a sleepless night as the result of this, that involved silent crying, and if you would like to avoid this, I suggest every time you come across the beginnings of a torture, just skim till the subject changes.

I also 'had no idea' that white soldiers killed so many Indian squaws and children, either, or raped them as frequently as happened. I suppose my mind retained the Little House on the Prairie image of Indian and white war, a Disney portrait. 

At the end of this story is of course, the reservation, and this too will break your heart. The chapter that begins so: ' The reservation was a shattering experience ' captures it rightly. White people shattered the entire life of Indian people, we took not 'just land', we took, it feels here, their spirit. The entire essence of Indian life was murdered. Comanches, people of the buffalo who lived nomadically and experienced life truly savagely, were plucked from their horses trampling down the prairie grass, their whoops filling the air, the enormous endless land rolling before them, the buffalo thundering around them, fires crackling ahead with their families and stories and food, and we gave them disease, alcohol- directly delivered both of these- and killed all the buffalo. 

The writing here also contains many, many glorious escapes into a spirit soaring kind of freedom and connection that left me feeling maudlin about my Little House in the Suburbs. Read here a paragraph from S.C. Gwynne on Cynthia Ann:

' One thinks of Cynthia Ann on the immensity of the plains, a small figure in buckskin bending toward her chores by a diamond-clear stream. It is late autumn, the end of warring and buffalo hunting. Above her looms a single cottonwood tree, gone bright yellow in the season, its leaves and branches framing a deep blue sky. Maybe she lifts her head to see the children and dogs playing in the prairie grass and, beyond them, the coils of smoke rising into the gathering twilight from a hundred lodge fires. And maybe she thinks, just for a moment, that all is right in the world.'

'One' can hear the little boy in S.C. Gwynne here, the absolute thrill and magic of the West and the free life as seen by a heart open toward it. I myself felt this thrill many times reading this glorious book, and was so transported that I often find myself now, jogging along a narrow root strewn dirt path and looking into the enormous dark blue sky of my night run, imagining that I am free, and running toward home in the grass.



Friday, September 12, 2014

People In Your Neighborhood


Dylan Landis new novel Rainey Royal was released this week and I am reading it this weekend! Read an interview with her on Rob Mclennan's blog. 

I can't state enough how much I really adore Lena Dunham. I have an enormous, head and heart crush on her for many reasons, including that she is she is an insanely gifted artist through many venues. This feature on her in her NYT is so good and says many things I also believe about Lena, including:

Dunham is an extraordinary talent, and her vision, though so far relatively narrow in focus, is stunningly original. For all the comparisons to Ephron and even to independent female filmmakers like Nicole Holofcener and Miranda July, the artist to whom she’s most analogous is Allen. With her awkward screen presence, her preoccupation with sex, her frank exploration of her own neuroses and, above all, her willingness to play the part of herself almost to the point of caricature, Dunham has ensured that her work be guided by her own persona, which in turn has been shaped by the twin forces of profound anxiety and exhaustive (though, again like Allen, somewhat roving and undisciplined) intellectual engagement. Plus, of course, extensive therapy.


Ethan Hawke on Robin Williams, saying what I also believe, that anyone really looking could see how much Robin was suffering. I always thought of that song 'the tears of the clown' from the 80's when I saw him being zany. 

This love story between two people in their twilight years is so damn life affirming. LOVE LIVES

What a fascinating story: The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit which includes this brilliant, beautifully expressed revelation:

"I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."

I am watching documentaries almost every night, and this one on a Civil War shipwreck and modern day gold hunt was so brain good. BRAIN LIKE. BRAIN HAPPY. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

kate mcrae

the little girl whose story i've followed since 2009, whose blonde beaming image is on the side of this blog, has relapsed with brain cancer. now ten years old, her understanding of what is happening is entirely mortal.  she had emergency surgery today after experiencing devastating seizures that led to the diagnosis of her recurrence. if you pray…or light candles…or whisper to an ungod as you fall asleep…or chime bells to tune energy…send Kate McRae and her family some of what you can give.




Monday, September 8, 2014

Elizabeth Gardner Is My Grandmother



this little girl is Elizabeth Gardner, my grandmother. she died in november years ago, before my birthday november tenth, silencing my birthday for me completely in the sacred hush of grief. she was in her eighties and had been ill for years with Parkinsons. the last year of her life was in an assisted living facility just ten minutes drive from where my i lived with my family, and where my mom lived. at the time Lola was a baby and i a stay at home mom, so i was able to visit my grandma Elizabeth two, three times a week. between myself and my mom, she was hardly without family for a day. Mr. Curry often came with me, I'd wait until he came home from work and we'd take whatever kids were home. Lola was such a docile, sweet child that the nursing home presented no parenting stress- she quietly and calmly moved in grandma's small, shared room, not shouting and pulling plugs and cords and folding electric beds the way i know, with all my heart, her little sister would. all of the nursing home residents were thrilled to see Lola, and Lola shyly and kindly spoke to each one. i require- not in fashion to 'require' your children to do anything, but it is the way i do it- my children to make eye contact with people ( often explaining to them when they are young that this is a fundamental way of acknowledging a person's value just for being a person ) and respond when spoken to. Ian was incredibly shy- we didn't require him to have lengthy conversations, but a simple, polite response is always in order. i practice this with Ever at the ice cream store, which we visit at least once a week. last Friday night we walked there for Family Night with Ian, Lola and Ever, and i hoist Ever up and tell her to make eye contact, communicate her order herself, and say please and thank you. i've found these are good teaching opportunities because children are happy to do these things in order to have treats. 

at times we'd visit grandma Elizabeth on Friday Family Night. this may not seem like a festive way to start a family night, but it was extremely meaningful and satisfying and bonded our growing family together in the most human of ways- through work, through love. the work of honoring your elders, the children watching me as i cleaned grandma's feet, rubbed them with lotion, clipped her toenails that were thick and gnarled and ignored by the nursing staff, or helped her awkwardly to the bathroom and then cleaned up the puddled urine on the floor that often, she didn't even notice. the simple acts of witnessing with open eyes and arms the reality of age and illness was a balm to any kind of shame. i never once saw my grandmother look ashamed or weep because i had to change her wet sheets or wipe food off her shirts. i remember vividly a look of deep understanding and love pass between her and i many times as i did these things. she acknowledged what was happening between us more than she gave weight to the betrayals of her body, which was, in my estimation, a great emotional intelligence i honestly would not have foreseen in my grandmother. 

my grandparents lived with my mother until she was so physically depleted that i worried she was going to lose her job. she hung on past what any person could be expected to do who still had to work full time at an intellectually demanding job that required focus. she was up many times a night helping them with the bathroom or aches and pains and then went right back to caring for them when she stepped through the door. although i visited often at this point, i was not there through the nights. my mother did that alone. 

Mr. Curry was often along at the nursing home visits and his spirit shone in those dour smelling yellow lit halls full of elderly people in wheelchairs, often alone with rare or no visitors. he made friends with many of the regular hallway visitors and chatted with them easily. if anyone was in obvious distress, he stopped and attended to them until it was taken care of. once, he reassured a man who was sitting in his wheelchair, unable to move it, and almost weeping with frustration at his loneliness and impotence. Mr. Curry sat with him and talked, and at the end of the conversation as his hand slipped off the crackle vein topped hand of this old man, Mr. Curry turned away from him and toward me and tears began to slide down his face. the pain that was most intense in this care center was not physical, it was the emotional loneliness of these people, and during our visits we always ensured that we included others in our time. usually we would stay for at least two hours, and although i often left with a strained mouth and tears in my eyes, my heart was satisfied that i was doing as much as i could do. 

my grandparents were very blessed in that although my mother and her brother were the only children living close, all their other children, three others- my Uncle David drowned in a Mississippi lake aged fourteen- all took turns visiting. almost every month one of them came for a weekend. this level of care was hot gossip at the assisted living facility, and i heard at least once a week how lucky my grandparents were, how lucky to have such devoted family. 

on holidays we'd bring treats for everyone and leave them in the common room, and often my mother brought her poodle Renny, much to the delight of all the residents. there was one woman i remember vividly who was almost paralyzed, in a wheelchair, unable to communicate, and spent most of her time in an unresponsive fugue. during Renny's visits, we'd let Renny run up to her and nuzzle, and this woman would open her eyes, tilt her head rightly, and a huge smile would erupt over her crooked teeth. it was amazing.

in this picture of my grandmother as a little girl, i see clearly the grandmother i knew, before her cheeks sagged from their own weight, before her eyes were hooded, before a million lines of life's disappointments and frustrations and pain shot around her mouth like a threaded needlepoint but when they were already beginning to dart. she had a hard childhood with a hard mother. she was such an intelligent woman, my grandmother,  went to college and became a teacher, learned and played beautiful piano, giving lessons most her adult life, and later in life, she became an accomplished painter.  she taught me about art, board games, the South, the land, classical music and history. she raised five children and in her later years finally moved from Jackson, Mississippi and the South she'd spent her life in, and settled here in San Diego. i see her stubborn spirit so clearly in the bent little mouth her. she was a gorgeous woman, and a beautiful old woman, and so loved. i miss her and think of her often. i run at night and am often alone. as i run i look at the night sky, the stars and moon, and many times i say hello to my grandmother. 

the week after we moved into this new house, i went on a run. feeling overwhelmed and run down with stress, i started crying, running on a part of the trail that was not lit, and there were no cars going by to light the bushes aside of me. i looked up at the sky and enormous moon that hung that night, and said grandma, i am so sad. at that moment, a blazing shooting star fizzed and bit and jerked and flung itself down the sky. i laughed out loud. ok grandma, i said, i hear you. i felt peaceful, and ran quietly the rest of the way home.




Saturday, September 6, 2014

People In Your Neighborhood

take a seat and read

If Tomorrow Starts Without Me, 3 min. video.
One Saturday Morning by Tessa Hadley in The New Yorker

A Modern Girls Guide To Childbirth by Elizabeth Evitts Dickenson in PANK

Leigh White is a FB friend who is doing a simple and powerful act. She took a town a corner where a young, mentally ill homeless man was beaten to death by cops and turned it into a station for supplies for homeless people. She even puts receipts up on FB for accountability. If you have $5 or $10 bucks to donate, amazing things will be done. Things like comfort, food, water, toiletries, friendship, love.

Another single act by a woman who cares, Traffic Stop from the blog Meg In Progress, on the day she helped children sold into sexual slavery.

A new treatment for severe depression looks promising.

A write up and interview in SFGate with my publishers, Shebooks

Amazing glimpse into an experience not disused: Perdition Days by Esme Wang walks us through a day where she dissociates and experiences severe psychosis.

I thought this write up on Emily Gould was interesting. 

The Persistent Optimist by Jordan Rosenfeld 





Thursday, September 4, 2014

an impression of you


i often think about appearances. how revealing and deceptive, confounding and illuminating they can be. what do you see here? what did my mother, taking this photo, see? what did Lola, Ian and Dakota see as they looked at us? 

i have no idea how the internets sees me. i know that i experience social media increasingly more awkwardly as the years move further away from the short time when blogging was a true community of friends, when everyone commented on everyone's blogs and there was only the unpleasant, far off whiffs of social climbing and positioning that began encroaching into the town hall. i often hear that what most online interaction boils down to shouldn't be taken personally. but of course, that is mostly posturing, human beings- even the adult of the species- experience life personally, and attempting to move away from that, while productive and healthy, is just that, an attempt, not our natural state, at least not at this time in our evolution. and like most things in this strange world, there are all kinds of shades of gray. if a cashier snaps at me, i don't take it personally. if that cashier snaps at me again, i still won't. but if that same cashier talks politely and calmly to the customers in front of and after me, and snaps at only me- then yes. i take it personally- to a degree. i take it as directed at me specifically, but i don't take responsibility for it, as i did in my twenties, i don't feel that some inherent flaw with myself has intruded into life once again and is causing this frizzy haired cashier with two inch long nails and thin lips to take a particular dislike to me. now, i understand that probably, i look like her best friend in college who stole her boyfriend, or she doesn't approve of the way i'm letting my daughter dance in the aisle. whatever it is, it's hers. she can own it, dance with it, tap it with her long thick nails, but she can't make me hold it. i teach my children about this. your whole life, people will ask you to own things that aren't yours. people are burdened. they want to unburden. don't take those packages, they aren't yours. 

in my twenties, i once went around asking everyone i knew very well what they had thought about me before they knew me. i insisted they tell the truth, and after enough haranguing, i got some fascinating answers- some that made me want to cry. i found that a few people had all thought i seemed unfriendly, unapproachable, while others thought the exact opposite, that i appeared ditzy, overly excitable, shallow. i was very blonde, thin and into wearing revealing outfits in my twenties, and my insecurities affected my personality more than i realized. i had cultivated a persona of silliness long ago in order to both relieve my own sadness and in order to prevent other people from shying away from the heaviness i lived with. i am a naturally very ridiculous person in some ways, and so this persona was only fake in so much as the duration- i wasn't quite that silly, quite that often. the most striking response i got was from a close girlfriend who used to not like me. 

' What did you think about me, back then? ' I asked her.

' Oh you just seemed so bitchy. Like you always wore cute outfits and drove around in your white car all smiling and happy.  ' 

' ???? ' I was dumbstruck. This time in my life she was referring to was my late teens and early twenties, a time that was incredibly burdened by trauma from my childhood, PTSD, a constantly stressful relationship, panic attacks and zero money. I worked so, so hard for every ounce of happiness or freedom i experienced, but my friend and her friends who had thought i was a bitch at the time didn't know or care to know. It's what they saw when they looked at the picture.

online these impressions are even stranger because as we all know and discuss, you can manipulate your image with more ease and gusto online, or in letters, than in person. there are no eyebrow arches to give your true feelings away, no hand gestures, no blurting things out before you can think, no unfiltered faces in unflattering light ( unless you are lena dunham, god bless her. obsessed. ) it's the classic American experience in many ways, head West and re-create your life, build a new town that looks how you want it to, and tell your friends what you want them to know. i have struggled with this on Flux, being a purist with truth telling, i tend to self flagellate if i notice i am fudging, and expose myself. so if i posted two blog posts that were cheerful and happy stories but life at home was actually sad and hard, i'd post a blog post so mother fucking depressing raw and real you'd question if i needed comments or shock therapy. ( probably both ) since childhood i have liked to shock people but only with the truth. i don't like to create to shock, but i do like to expose to shock. i enjoy the sensation of fat, bold truth popping in someone's face as they try to look away. 

LOOK

what i found out over the last four years was that crafting a 'brand' out of myself was not possible. i literally could not do it, and i did try. if i could make buckets of money doing that, and stay home with my kids and write my novel? hell yes! but i couldn't do it. i'm not constant enough, as a person or a blog. that's the entire intention behind this place, what i started with, the idea that i would make myself come here and tell the truth to the best of my ability about my life. and the truth? it's always changing. it's not a brand. 

what i see when i look at that picture up there are pockets of words that hold profound meaning for me.
i see the words:

exhausted
loyal
love
joy
family
devotion
illness
endurance
beauty
human

at the time this picture was taken Mr. Curry had been sick a year, and it wasn't getting better. it was grueling, psychologically and physically, and i felt the weight of our entire family was on my shoulders, the responsibility to keep each person emotionally  and physically cared for, to keep them aware of myself as anchor…. and then i keep looking, and it is just as memory does for me as i look back, like remembering childbirth, yes i remember the pain, the suffering, the anger, confusion, doubt, the exhaustion, but look at the leaves on those trees, the light all around us, the entire season of Fall going to sleep in the brimming light of Winter cresting across the breeze, the engagement of our family resting in a moment of grace and love, the running i had begun tentatively doing that was bringing my body back to life, the enormous cheesy smile that Ever had all day, the embrace of Mr. Curry's arms and how for that day, the pilot light of his soul was able to escape the jail of his brain, and what do i see? i see life. human life. 

“When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.” 
― William ShakespeareShakespeare's Sonnets

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Essay Published in Medium: Human Parts. ' Stigmata By Proxy '

Hi you alls. Come read my essay, published in the murky mysterious waters of Human Parts.

Stigmata By Proxy


Thursday, August 28, 2014

at the forefront


Here I am, in Starbucks, in California, living a life that is safer and easier than most of human life has ever been since the dawn of cavemen. The internet would not say so, but when my daughter dreams of England long ago I think of heads on chopping blocks, religious persecution, rape uncontested and terrifying kings and queens and papal violence through the word of God. When she went through her Little House on the Prairie phase I thought of Indian warfare, scalping, raping, cutting off of noses, roasting people over fires- of the white people who insisted, beyond all reason, to insert themselves into Indian land and claim it as their own, despite the death of not only the men, but many many uncounted for women and children, lost to history, burnt to their ground in their log cabins, and the deaths of the Indians and their families, murdered and raped also, children also. History is littered with bodies of innocents and warriors alike, and todays life is no more evil or terrifying than it ever was, except for possibly that the expectation of safety has created such a wall between us and the threats to our life and well being that are still present that we are shocked by it in a way that didn't exist before.

At times I look around me and feel so insulated I can barely breathe.

When Mr. Curry is ill, it feels as if there is no room for us. As if we live inside of a commercial where everyone has white teeth, good hair, mischievous children and gophers in their yard while we stumble on set, barely making it and in tears, therapist in tow.

Now, he is well. He has been well for a few months now. Navigating this is an hourly job. I am hyper aware of his facial expressions, body language and the way his half shaven beard does or does not cut across his jaw, the way he pushes his hands into his armpits when he talks, the way he looks inward, or at me. When I see him recede, the smallest wave pull itself back a foot or two- I panic. I break out in a sweat, my arms ache, a stone in my throat won't swallow, I am nauseous and terrified. 'This is it, he's leaving again, he's going to be angry soon, very angry'
repeats in my brain like a bell rung during the Comanche moon, when attack is imminent. The hour passes, he moves forward into his eyes, and I am exhausted.

Post traumatic something. Love hurts. Fear based decision making. Co-dependant. Isolated.

So sweetheart, it's OK, he tells me. I see he is there in his face, present in his jawline, mouth, and his eyelids are not sagging with effort to hold up the human body, bipolar being so draining and exhausting that at times he walks with his head tilted downward. Sweetheart, he says, and I am almost all there. I love him so much, he is my best friend, he is my partner, my walk mate. I am almost all there, but part of me, it recedes.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Around the World

Ferguson on my mind- young black boys on my mind, cops on my mind. Guns on my mind, this poster: Guns don't kill people, people kill people, guns without people don't kill people. Robin Williams, bipolar, the heroic endurance of people who hold onto life and those they love until every last molecule of strength has been burned, that crazy light we only get so much of as Robin told us, only so much light. My sons on my mind. White boys, heart of my heart, blood of my blood, loves of my life, already so much fear when they are young, aggressive, posturing and ego drivin, yet less, because they are not black. Less fear that someone will randomly kill them, or attack them. The deep sadness and fear of a world I understand more as I grow and learn our history, but less as my heart expands agonizing inch by inch to love every person, the face of every person, even the hated and the loathed, to learn to love the essence of life is a potent oil that makes the lessons of history harder to hold, harder to remember when you try to understand the random violence and death we inflict on one another. The enlarged sore shaped like California on the back of my neck that my daughter covered for me with concealer. The hardened scab I peeled off that says, ' I Am Afraid '.

Maggie and Ravi on my mind. Maggie, a young white girl somehow in Africa, creating a small village that cares for orphans. Where did she begin to imagine she could achieve this, and how do I pass this imagining and believing on to my children? How to obtain the small steps. Ravi, a young, orphaned and abandoned baby boy, ill with sepsis, left at Maggie's orphanage. 'Like'. 'Follow'. Images on the Facebook. Ravi's wizened, helpless face, emaciated arms and legs, bulbous belly, Maggie's frantic and heartbroken posts on the Facebook as she believes he will die. He lives. Maggie sleeps with him, feeds him with a dropper, 'like'. Ever looking at Lola's yearbook. ' Momma, can I have this Facebook? ' she asks. Ian's young friend, his young friend's desperate mother, on the Facebook asking for help to give her son the operation that will keep him from going blind. 'Like' 'Share' 'Donate'. Ian's friend gets his operation, even without raising the full amount. Right things happen.

Here in Poway, our town, the town of scraped desert face rezoned with trees, flanked by the hills and further off mountaintops that in Winter, are covered in snow, there was an 8 year old girl who went to Yellowstone with her family for vacation. Like my sister in law took her family, just weeks ago. This 8 year old girl stepped off the path and fell, the news repeats over and over FIVE HUNDRED FEET to her death. On the Facebook, her face, big smile, tiny white teeth, easy eyes that are loved. This tiny person. Her parents. Her parents. Her parents. Facebook says, ' town mourns '. I mourn her. Her parents.

Babies on my mind. Last week, Dakota in town, came for dinner to our new house, we call The Blue House, for most rooms we painted various shades of blue, but the living room which is bright white. All four kids , Ed myself and Dakota's best friend since 5th grade sit outside for dinner. A baby on the other side of our fence is crying hysterically. He sounds maybe one and a half. He cries, I look. He cries, he cries, he cries. Ed says ' this is why I had the TV so loud when you came home. ' Sleep training, I think. I look. Lola says heatedly ' how can anyone! what is wrong with them! ' and I say to myself ten years ago and also now to my 12 year old daughter, ' we don't know. we won't judge our neighbors. we don't know. just send love. ' the windows of that house begin to slam, one by one, someone angry is walking through that house and slamming shut the windows. The baby is not crying. My friend Taymar has her baby boy Benny. Benny has Downs Syndrome. He is very cute, so cute that Lola says it makes her feel angry to look at pictures of him, because things that are too cute make us want to squeeze them, and if we can't squeeze them, we feel angry. This makes me think of Mice and Men.

Dakota added another tattoo to his side, the state of California. Inside, there are more meanings. There are symbols. Like a cave drawing thousands and thousands of years ago. At night, I watch documentaries when Lola is not with me. My favorite shows are on ancient Mayans, Vikings and Egyptians. One night, I watch a long recounting of Pompeii. In one of the preserved houses from that great death trap, there is a toilet, made so two people could sit and talk while they shat. In Pompeii at this time, this is how they did everything, communally. On the wall, 2,000 years ago, some young man had written, ' Here, Aman took a good long shit. ' Things don't change very much, do they.
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