The arrival of very new little person into the lives of my son and daughter-in-law and myself and the need for confidentiality and privacy on social media services for their safety has covered over my usual urge to narrate. It’s as if the softest blanket of new snow fell over it, like I used to love witnessing in Moscow winters, that first true snow when from the window beyond the firelight I’d watch everything getting tucked in: the sidewalk, the tree branches, the street, the cars, even the spare architecture of bicycles leaning against a house. When all is covered in this blanket, a peace settles over everything as well. And so it is that we settled into our cocoon of social media quiet and found it good.

Very new little person continues to grow and thrive, and is not quite so very new anymore. But the uncertainty of their situation is brought home to us with regularity. One morning as Cotton and I were walking on the beach, I was reflecting on how trusting the love we feel and being as present with that as possible is like being held in a protective bowl or shell, whether I am confronting the uncertainty in the world or the uncertainty in our family life. Staying present in love and trust strangely buoys me with courage to move through each moment. I looked down on the sand and saw this huge half shell and decided to take it home. On the way back up to the steps, I found the little one you see inside it in the photo, nearly identical to it, and it struck me how our personal situation is a small replica of what is asked of us in the world at large as we move toward the birth canal to a better world, uncertain how much trauma and suffering it will require to get there. And yet, in the vision and trust in the power of abiding love, I can (mostly anyway) stay afloat amid the uncertainty.

I’ve enjoyed this quiet time of not writing a lot, not drawing a lot, not feeling compelled to create every day. It’s given me an opportunity to look at that compulsion, and realize that I regularly said to myself that if I drew a picture that day then I felt like I deserved to breathe. It’s dawning on me that I deserve to breathe because I am alive, just as everyone else does. And I have this unshakable trust that when something so important dawns on me, it is helping pave the way for this dawning in others, and in society, and in our world. So I let the dawning come as best I can.

Yesterday it was a year ago since Romeo crossed the rainbow bridge. It was a hard day for me, perhaps because the anniversary gave me a chance to mourn all of the life I had with him, before the pandemic and before there was no going back to any of that as it once was. I realized, though I have tried earlier, I had nearly all of Romeo’s ashes, and I felt him prompting me to let more of them go.

So this morning we took his ashes down to the beach, stopping at an outcropping of exposed bedrock I like to call “the dragons.” These large, curving “tails” of bedrock appear and disappear and appear again as the ocean shoves sand over them or pulls it back out off the continental shelf. I walked among them, in the places that were stable enough to support my weight, and I put my hand in Romeo’s ashes and strew them over the dragons little by little. While I did this, Cotton ran with joyful abandon, jumping over the dragon backs, as if to salute his old friend.

When I felt like it was time to stop, I listened to that. Though I still had some ashes left, the bag was now considerably lighter, and so was I. I looked down at my feet to see a very unusual hunk of almost purely white agate, which I could not resist picking up. A few yards away, a very small amber one twinkled up from the dark sand near the water, and I picked it up too. Together they made a lovely representation of the colors in Romeo’s coat, confirming for me that this gift from the sea meant I had indeed made the right call.

Earlier this week our very new little person had their first institutionally supervised court ordered visit with a biological parent. It was an emotional morning for all of us, and as I kept vigil from afar I felt like I needed a large vision to keep me company. I went and found the film The Way, for reasons I can’t completely divulge here. It’s one of my favorites, a story about a grieving father whose grown son has died on The Camino in Spain. The grieving father decides to make the pilgrimage in place of his son, carrying the ashes with him, dispersing them along the way. It was a big enough vision to contain both vigils: the one for very new little person and the one my heart was keeping in honor of my Romeo’s passing. The song Thank U, by Alanis Morissette is part of the soundtrack, and it fit my soul’s feeling like an old glove to hear it again.

This is where I usually try to wrap it up in some kind of crescendo that runs back up and down everything I’ve been trying to say. But today I’ll just say I don’t know how to do that. I’m grateful I can breathe. I’m grateful for the mystery that holds me, and holds all of us, I’m grateful for the love given and received in my life, across space and time, and beyond it.

The shape of a shell is also the shape of a bowl or a cradle. It’s a place to shelter, to nourish, to rest. Even the shape of my astrological birth chart is in this shape, so it feels right to my soul to return to it, a pilgrim afloat in a rounded vessel that can dip and toss, buoyant through loss and through change. And open, always, to transformation, even when it means getting capsized.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

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When the Rodriguez family moved into the little white house one block over, I felt an instant kinship with them. Both of our houses had parking lots on the north side, which made an instant thoroughfare for delivery trucks during the day and drunken college students at night, weaving their way home from the bars downtown. Before they moved in, I fought against and then had to watch the type of development that pushes out families in favor of business (white business). One caualty of a rezoning battle I did not win was that the backyard of that little white house was raised and made into a parking lot. Trees fell to be replaced by hot asphalt, the long ago memory of a solstice fire in that backyard when a friend and her son lived there no longer prompted by the sunken shady yard. At the time of the rezoning, one of Mike’s skateboarding friends and his Mom rented it, and I’d sometimes wave to the mom soaking her feet in a little wading pool under the tree. But after the rezoning they moved out, and, of course, my most cynical self surmised, the owners rented it to the Rodriquez family, who were too busy working to enjoy the luxury of a backyard they hadn’t known was there before, and probably for the same rent.

So I made it a point to wave to anyone who was outside and to introduce myself to Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez, who at the time, both worked at the Mexican restaurant a couple more blocks away downtown, a common destination of those walking through the corridor of asphalt next to our houses. They didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Spanish, but Mrs. Rodriguez and I were able to determine we had the same first name, which brought an instant familiarity and easy smile.

The Rodriguez family had 3 children. We’ll call them Alicia, Roberto, and Tommy. Alicia was a beautiful girl already headed to high school, who had her own set of friends and goals. Then came Roberto, about nine at the time, and his little brother Tommy, about 4 years old. I would stop and talk to the kids, too, if they were out in the yard. I introduced them to Romeo and showed them which house I lived in.

One fall day there was a knock on my front door. Roberto was there, asking me if he could have a job raking my leaves (which definitely needed to be raked). That was the beginning of a years long friendship in which I got to watch him grow up into a young man. But that afternoon, he was a little boy trying hard to rake a mountain of leaves, who also needed someone to talk to. I told him he did not need to do a job to come over, he could visit any time he wanted, and if I was tired or busy, I would let him know, and he could come back another time.

So he would come over, and tell me about school, about his life, how he didn’t have many friends yet, what video games he liked to play and that he wanted to be a professional basketball player or join the army. I would question him about how he was doing in school and the teacher part of me would push him to do better at reading. Sometimes I’d offer to help him with a homework assignment if he asked or let him look something up on my computer if he needed to. Sometimes he would have Tommy in tow, and sometimes, later on, he would bring his cousin Jose, who was already in high school and came to stay with them from Arizona.

The three of them would sometimes sit on the couch and I would sit in the rocking chair and we would chat (well, mostly Roberto would chat, he was the extrovert of the family) and then I would say, well, I need to take a nap now, so I’m going to kick you out, in my good natured way, and we’d all giggle, because they always knew they could come back.

One of my fondest memories of the three of them and maybe another cousin is the summer day I invited them all over to pick from my profusion of raspberry bushes. Tommy in particular had been waiting and waiting until the berries were ripe, because I had shown him how they needed to be red first and then they would come right off without pulling. I still can see them all there at the back fence with their containers and me, crazy garden lady, reminding them “to think like a berry,” and how delighted Tommy was when he saw that what I said was true about how easy they were to pick when they were ripe.

Over the years, Roberto came to confide in me about his life at school and at home, and I got to be a happy witness to his social blossoming when he decided to try out and join the wrestling team– and witness to how he was accepted and encouraged by the coach and the other boys, who became his set of friends, and went to tournaments and began winning matches. This became an impetus for him to finish assignments and read assignments so he could stay on the team. Every once in a while if I was about to eat he’d stay for dinner. I remember one time he was fascinated and delighted to try a completely vegan meal with me. He confided in me when his parents split. He confided in me that though his older sister Alicia and Tommy were born in the US, he had been born in Mexico.

Jose would finish high school in Moscow. He was a quiet, languid and tall boy who loved animals and had a special connection to Romeo. He wanted to work for a vet. He was a dreamy kid, I liked him a lot, and he may also have been a Dreamer. For his graduation, I gave him the book Vatos, a collaboration between Pulitzer Prize winning photographer José Galvez and poet Luis Alberto Urrea that celebrates Chicano manhood, to show how proud I was of him. After that he went on to other relatives. The strength of that family network across miles and countries and states held all those kids–which always made my heart glad. It helped me to reassure myself they would stay safe and be able to live their lives here as the Americans they really were.

The last time I saw Roberto before I left Moscow, I had moved away from Asbury Street. But we ran into each other in the park near there while I was walking Romeo. He was about to graduate, all grown up, I think with a wrestling scholarship, and he introduced me to his girlfriend. It was a moment of happiness he wanted to share with me at his social and academic success as he entered adulthood. We parted with much love and gratitude between us.

By the time I moved away from Moscow, the term Dreamer had been coined, and I was acutely aware that Roberto was one, as the harsh inhumane policies about immigration were starting to ramp up more publicly. So always, as this current administration made senseless war on such a wonderful vibrant community of young people, and immigrants in general, one of my  prayers is always that wherever he is now may it be somewhere here in this country that’s safe for him, and that he’s living a good life. And that his family is too.

Today, when I read the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold DACA, I cheered out loud. I immediately thought of those days when these kids would come over, for friendship, for affirmation and conversation, for support and, in summer, for raspberries.  It made my life better that they were in it for that time.  It makes our life better as a country when we work to make sure they remain a vibrant healthy and equal part of it.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

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Yellow Is The Color. . .

June 4, 2020

Back in the time when I went to the grocery store in person, one of my favorite things to do if I had been efficient with my time in the grocery aisles, would be to migrate over to the far end of the store where the plant nursery lives. I was reminded how much I […]

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Becoming an Agate

May 5, 2020

I would have walked right past it, but just as I was stepping into a patch of early morning sun on the still mostly shaded beach, I happened to look down and see a somewhat ordinary pocked gray rock look as if it had a galaxy on the top of it. OOOooo! I breathed in […]

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Vegan No Oil Lemon Cake (for Rachel)

April 10, 2020

Maybe it was in response to the surprise of a large organic lemon inside the box of organic produce I ordered from Gathering Together Farm a couple of weeks ago, or maybe it was the approach of the Easter Holiday. Maybe it was the kind of memory my thoughts turn to when I spend a […]

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Homage To My Hands

April 6, 2020

The other day I was washing my hands for the umpteenth time when a tenderness came over me. Instead of trying to sing the 20 second song I came across in the New York Times or bitching to myself about the revolving door I can get into (hands in warm water cue the bladder which […]

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Where Love Abides (and Spilled Stars)

March 24, 2020

Last night right before turning off my lap top I came across this article, “The Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief,” which resonated deeply with what I’d been grappling with earlier in the day and hashing out with a wise friend of mine. It put me in mind, too, of this very fine skeleton of a […]

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Until We Meet Again

March 14, 2020

For the last couple of weeks we have been planning to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s birthday out here on the coast. A few days ago I finished her a loom knit gift (no spoilers beyond that allowed) and shopped for the ingredients for the decadent dessert you see above. (Go to Cherry Chocolate Mousse Pie  at […]

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The Hope of Poppies (and Orange Almond No Oil Granola)

March 13, 2020

As most of you know, I make my meals by the seat of my pants these days, and my recipe posts are usually guided by tasty epiphanies and not carefully remade and tested over and over again to make sure of consistency. But this granola is different. After having to buy some over the holidays […]

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Two Ways To Look At A Rainbow

February 24, 2020

Last Sunday Cotton and I went down to the beach in the late afternoon to play for a bit in the wind, next to the rising tide. We had a spirited few minutes down on the sand playing with Cotton’s “toy” (a twisted rope knotted at both ends that he treats like prey) and made […]

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