Monday, November 19, 2007

Healing waters, a good bed, organic tomatoes, polenta, rainbow trout, cheeses, papaya, persimmons, home-grown greens, long luxurious hikes, and time to make love and rediscover why we moved in was just what we both needed after the last hectic month. My beliefs in God change as I evolve but I am firmly convinced of the power of a hot tub to make life better.

While we were lounging naked in the pools, along with other aging hippies, butts, bellies, private parts, we saw a gaggle of slender girls from Hong Kong, about eighteen years old, wearing bikinis. Lovely as flowers, all of them, nothing sagging or wrinkling, just smooth, firm youth. They giggled together in Mandarin while we languidly soaked, each group covertly watching and not watching the other.

I remember being their age. I was horrified at the idea of my flesh aging, corrupting. I had a nice figure and I didn't want anything to happen to it. If I had been catapulted then into the body I have now, twenty pounds heavier and thirty years older, I would have been horrified.

And now it's now, and I am not horrified, not even self-conscious. I don't care if other people see that I'm not perfect. I'm not perfect. I would not trade places with any of those adorable teenagers we saw. I enjoyed watching them, but I didn't want to be them. I didn't want to have to guard something that couldn't be guarded, and God help me I don't ever again want to have to go through what I've gone through to get here. I am much more comfortable in these folds and layers of imperfect, experienced flesh than I was in my young, taut, gorgeous body--comfortable in a different way.

And I noticed something else: perfection all looks the same. The girls were uniformly lean and graceful--they could have worn each others' bikinis (except for one who was a little bit chubbier and wore a bathing suit with a little skirt on the bottom.) All the older people on the other hand were falling apart each in our own unique, idiosyncratic way; extra padding on belly or hips, legs still holding up but breasts heading south, (or small proud breasts still high, while the bottom spread,) waistlines thickening, but elegant clavicles.

C and I took a long glorious hike: bright blue sky, warm sun, trees turning yellow and orange (though not as spectacularly as in New England.) Horse-tail clouds. Abandoned farm equipment. Then we saw what we thought were chestnuts, tons of them, so perfectly ripe we had caught them literally in the act of falling from the trees.

"Look, honey! These are like $4.99 in the store! At least! We can roast them and serve them for Thanksgiving."

"I wonder why people just let them lie on the ground to rot," C mused.

We enthusiastically gathered pounds and pounds of them, tying the sleeves of C's plaid shirt together to improvise a bag that would carry them back. Described them to the cook, who had spent ten years in France, apprenticing, and he said, "Those are buckeyes--they're inedible. There are hardly any chestnuts left in this country, they mostly import them from Europe. That's why they're so expensive." We had a good laugh at our own expense. There are still 10 pounds of buckeyes in the back of C's car, waiting for a discreet place where he can dispose of them.

I am reading The Pacific, short stories by Mark Helprin. He has lovely long poetic sentences, full of rhythm and beauty. I feel safe in his storyteller's hands, because his vision of human nature, while not naive, is not cynical. He gives his characters frailty and nobility, and he even gives them miracles and second chances. His work is holy writ, especially the short story "Perfection."

I was going to work on the plays--I had my usual grand, overweeningly ambitious plans for the weekend-- but accidentally left my laptop behind, which was probably just as well. Instead I finished illustrating my Chanukah gift to my nieces, The Princess with Too Many Clothes, and napped and chatted and ate a lot.

Before we left on Friday, I changed the name of my poetry ms. from See How We Almost Fly to Sustain, and sent out three copies to different contests. I hope it's not just pissing into the wind. Two more copies to send out before the end of November. The book is the richest and strongest it's ever been--I've put everything I could into it--and I wonder when the hell it will get taken. Like wondering when I would ever meet my partner, when I was ready for so long. Fourteen years between marriages. C is definitely worth the wait, but I'm still not sure why I had to wait so long--that's not a very spiritually mature thing to say. You're supposed to say, "Not in my time, but God's time," or whatever, which, okay, I do believe, but really, God, would it have killed You to have sent me a good faithful partner when I was 35 instead of waiting until I was almost fifty?

The Bay has been covered with black oil from a Valdez-like spill this week, and my friend E has been volunteering to help clean it. She made phone calls to local hotels and got them to donate clean sheets and towels, got a friend of hers to launder them with organic soap to get the chemical detergent out, and has been spending her free time scrambling around on shore, breathing in toxic fumes from the spill, and doing what she can to help rescue birds--most of them will not make it--and restore balance.

When I told her I admired her for doing that, she said, "I had to, otherwise I would just sit home and cry."

I heard someone define spiritual evolution as "joyful involvement with the sorrows of this world." Wish I could remember where the quote came from. Anyway, that is what I thought when I talked to her. Also, finally finished the Tracy kidder book about Paul Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is one of the most inspiring, challenging, kick in the ass things I've ever read.

Driving home, C and I talked about other lives we might have liked to have led had we not stumbled into the things we are doing now. I have wanted to be an actor, a medical missionary, an adoptive parent, a painter, a contemplative, a criminal profiler, a child psychologist.

He could have been a fine woodworker, a full-time musician, a writer, a doctor, or many other things.

The real question is, how will we use whatever time we have left?


Manda Renee said...

What a great entry. You spoke to just about every concern I'm facing in my own life these days. Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts and observations!

Alison said...

Thanks, Manda renee, I enjoyed your blog as well!