Monday, June 30, 2008

Five burly muggers face one sweet-looking older woman with white hair. They charge her in a scrimmage. She picks them off like ripe corn and within five minutes the bodies are strewn all over the mat. Their bodies. She roars: "Look! Assess! No!" in a voice like a lion, then jogs off.

I whisper to the woman standing next to me in line, "It looks like the final scene in Hamlet." I have so much adrenaline going through my system it is impossible to contain it. I shake my hands out, wriggle my arms, bounce up and down on my toes, try to remember all of the thousand things we have learned this weekend. Breathe. Vocalize. Line them up. Pull them out. Keep moving. One strike at a time. Don't get in the middle. Yell. Elbow strike. Roundhouse kick. Slap kick. Butt strike. Groin slap. Keep moving. Don't get caught in the middle.

By the end of the weekend I have lost track of how many times I have fought off two, three, and even four assailants. It's the most exhausting work-out I have ever endured. All of us are tired. The male instructors pull off their helmets during breaks and down quarts of juice. One woman is too tired at the end of her fight even to lift her knee for a final knee to the groin strike. I'm worried if I will have anything left to "perform" with when our supporters come in.

C sits in the audience, on the floor, watching us fight one at a time, cheering for everyone. I realize this is ritual healing theatre. Time after time, the woman is outnumbered. Even big women look small compared to these bubble-headed monsters. Yet time after time, all expectations are reversed and the impossible happens. The muggers are downed. It is a reworking of a scene out of a classic tragedy--in this case the tragedy of the patriarchy where women always lose power and speech and often, life. In this re-enactment, the women are left intact and in full voice. Their attackers are ritually sacrificed, over and over again.

What kind of man would do this work? Voluntarily put on a big heavy uncomfortable padded suit and charge women so that they can practise bringing them down, a kick, a strike at a time. What a gift. Perhaps they have wounds to heal as well. Perhaps we are healing this wound for all of society.

After it's all over, C takes me out to dinner. I have paella and he has stuffed chiles pablano. We toast each other with wine and some well-earned cheesecake. I was so scared during class. Even though our "muggers" are some of the most benign men on the planet, they are big guys, and it is primally terrifying when several of them rush you at once. It rouses a panic that lies deep in the gut.

G joins us later to celebrate our engagement with a glass of wine and to be regaled with war stories. Job well done. Late that night, I awaken at three. So much adrenaline has been released into my bloodstream I can't sleep, even though I'm dead tired. I lie awake, reciting the psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. She maketh me lie down in green pastures, She leads me by the still waters, She restores my soul, She leads me down paths of righteousness for Her name's sake."

Although I've fought for the right to feel righteous, instead I am filled with that automatic middle of the night self-loathing. Things I said or didn't say. Small transgressions, insensitivities. Gross failings. Those are my multiple assailants. The myriad hordes of self-doubts and self-reproaches that double-team me, sneak up from behind, grab me by the neck when I'm least expecting them.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Half of California is burning--we saw on the news the other night that there are over 700 wildfires around the state--and the air is white and ashy. We are advised to stay indoors, not to do aerobic exercise which could pull more of the polluted air into our lungs. Nevertheless we walked around the lake the other night at sunset. The flocks of geese have multiplied into the millions--they are well-fed and prosperous, and their poop makes a green carpet all around the banks of Lake Merritt. The sun was setting, only because of the mixture of fog and smog there was no real sunset, just a throbbing huge red-orange ball slowly descending. It looked like something out of the Martian Chronicles.

We watched There Will Be Blood last night. Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing--he richly deserved his Best Actor award--but the movie was so unremittingly bleak. Materialism was shown to be empty; spirituality was likewise shown to be empty, at least as personified in the character of the preacher. What else is left? The Daniel Day-Lewis character started out isolated and driven and ended up insane, with a little detour of sweetness with his son for a while--but by the end that too was in ruins.

What was missing from the landscape of the film was simple humanism. There was only this Orthodox fanatical brand of religion and the greed and carelessness of the oil men. There was no character who carried a vision of making things livable for everyone--the Daniel Day-Lewis character talked about it a bit in some of his speeches, but they were simply cynical ploys to win over the townspeople.

What the greedy materialism of the oilmen and the religious fanaticism of the townspeople have in common is grandiosity. "I can heal people by the laying on of hands." "I can spread gold all over the lands." Nowhere is the simple message of the Tao: "Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity."

Today we're prepping and priming the in-law. I've committed myself to 1,000 words a day, either of the new essay I just started, or on the third act of Shame Circus, which I fear will be difficult--but a good stretch. I'm reading Hedda Gabler--very interesting, surprisingly modern--and today we'll start reading Othello aloud together in preparation for Ashland.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yesterday was clouds and sun. We packed up a vast picnic brunch, like the kind we used to eat when we first started dating--thermos of strong coffee, cheese, thick chewy bread with walnuts, salami, fruit, hard-boiled eggs--and headed over to the Marina.

Found a spot that was sheltered from sun and wind, spread out a blanket, and ate. I lay on my back and just moaned with pleasure and relaxation. I'd taught, all weekend, with Laurie Wagner--our first Spit 'n' Polish workshop. It was great, twelve wonderful women, and Laurie and I worked smoothly together--but it was a lot of sitting and writing and talking and interacting. Monday I went to Wing It! rehearsal and then an equally intense playwriting class I'm taking at Playwright's Foundation--an hour in on BART, three hours of sitting and writing, an hour back.

So yesterday was the first real day of vacation, of silence and nature, time away from words. We watched squirrels and chipmunks, and I want to say gophers but I'm not sure--anyway, there are whole colonies of them at the Marina. They appear to have vacation homes out by the rocks, and then burrows farther inland. A whole underground city. They are fat and tame because of all the poeple who feed them, like the old man we saw handing out peanuts. Several of them came and begged shamelessly right at our shoes.

There were red-tailed hawks too: circling, gliding, stalling--one of them hung in the air only a few feet from us, for three or four moments, perfectly still, planing--so we could practically count its feathers. I've never had a hawk come so close or stay so suspended. It was a strong headwind, and the hawks were going with it, playing with it, keeping an eye out all the time for squirrels.

We saw a gull flying straight at the hawk, chasing it off. Maybe the gull was protecting its nest...

This was the scene of our first date, when we walked the mile loop of the Marina talking. I remember stealing glances at C's profile. He seemed shy and serious and eager. I liked his dry wit, and the beautiful architecture of his face, his strong nose, and the way yo8u could see his Dutch ancestry. I remember laughing a lot.

Yesterday after one and a half loops around, he headed out for some rocks over the ocean and I followed him. We sat on a smooth rock, and he blurted out, "Do you think it's too soon after sixteen months to talk about marriage?"

I said, "No, I don't think it's too soon."

"Then I'd like to marry you," he said.

I gaped at him. "Are you proposing?"

"I am."

We both started laughing, a little teary-eyed. I kissed him and whispered "Yes," into his neck. Then he really surprised me by pulling out a little black box. Inside was the ring his grandfather gave his grandmother--the ring I'm wearing now as I type this. It fit perfectly--he'd sneaked around and taken one of my rings and had it sized. It looks simple and beautiful and unquestionably engagement-esque. Kind of traditional. I've spent my whole life not being traditional and it feels sweet to slip into this at mid-life.

As soon as we got home I got on the phone. My father was anxiously waiting news of my stepbrother's wife, who was in labor, so he had his cell phone with him and turned on for once. He was so happy and overwhelmed. He said, "I can't even describe to you all that I'm feeling right now." I called the whole family which took a good part of the evening, asking each niece to be a flower girl. "What does a flower girl do?" one of them wanted to know, very reasonably. Then I made chicken mole and tried to finsih a blanket for the new baby. We had champagne with dinner.

Liam Francis was born a little after 2:00 in the morning East Coast time, looking peaceful and radiant.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Carla and I lurched along the sidewalk from her house to Trader Joe's and then back again. A somewhat quixotic errand--alright, crazy--it's half a mile each way. But Carla gamely said, "Let's try it." So we tried it. On the way back she said, "I don't think I can do both legs of this trip anymore," and it was decided that next time we'll just walk one way and have a car waiting on the other end. Magic cab.

We laughed a lot as we were lurching, trying to manouver the piece-o-shit grocery cart with one hand, which doesn't work well with cracks in the sidewalk. She thinks Johnny Depp is a dreamboat--I beg to differ. Johnny Depp is a little boy playing dress-up. Give me Viggo Mortensen any day. (This is a highly expurgated account of one small part of the conversation.)

The more important part--really the heart of the conversation, no matter what the topic--is how fleeting everything is. Only a few months ago we made it easily to the top of Solano, which is a fair-sized hill. Now, no longer.

When I spend time with Carla I am aware of living inside a myth. Not a fairy-tale--an old-fashioned primal myth. The Descent of Inanna. Sisyphus. The impossible koan of human experience. It's beautiful and painful and enlivening. Fortunately we can argue about who's cuter, Johnny Depp or Viggo Mortenesen, for all eternity.

I also told her I want to be included with the rest of the girl-posse when we go to MAC cosmetics to learn how to do her make-up for her, despite my having said I would not trust myself with a mascara wand anywhere in the vicinity of someone else's eyes. (That's all she needs right now--to be blinded by a good friend who's trying to help her look pretty while dealing with ALS.) But I think the MAC outing will be a hoot, and I'm sure I can learn to apply foundation, blush and eyeshadow with the best of them.

On my way home, after a brief shopping trip, I got pulled over on the freeway, because of expired tags. The cop was about 16 years old. He directed me (via bullhorn) to pull over somewhere in the middle of West Oakland. I ended up sandwiched between a vacant lot and a billboard, looking at a freeway overpass. I made the mistake of leaving my key in the ignition while he was writing out his slap-on-the-wrist fix-it ticket, and after 20 minutes in the broiling hot sun, the battery died. The cop and his buddy drove off to fight crime and there I was stuck in West Oakland.

I called C; I called Triple A. I sat in the car and sweated. Triple A finally came, the guy gave me a jump and told me I need a new battery. I proceeded homeward, jumped in the shower, threw a salad together and Vicky came over. We had a nice dinner and chat--she's also a special ed teacher, so she and C had much to commiserate, celebrate and agitate about.

The day was a day of catastrophes narrowly averted; the ticket could have been much worse, getting a new battery is about the cheapest fix you can make to a car, and the house had been left unlocked for half a day because of Masankho forgetting to lock up after the Comcast guy, and yet luckily no one had broken in and stolen C's guitars, amps, speakers, or my laptop. Thank God!

Monday night I went to the Playwright's Foundation class. I like the teacher Liz Duffy, very much. Her energy reminds me of my old theatre friend Karen Henry, so gentle and thoughtful, yet with a spark. She had us write the world's worst 2-page play as an opening exercise. I thought the class would be based on the I Ching and I brought my book--instead it turns out to be based on the Tao Te Ching. Went out and bought it yesterday--that was one of my shopping errands. The Tao Te Ching is all about accomplishing things without making an effort, not getting all caught up in striving., just letting things take their course. It seems a good philosophy to learn to live by these days.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My heart is very full of Carla, Carla, Carla. last night C and I, along with Ruth and my old friend Jeremy and Jeremy's son Aidan went to hear Carla perform at the Jazz School. So many times I found myself blinking with tears. As she finished I Could Drink A Case Of You, Jeremy leaned over and whispered to me, "That song always makes me cry."

That song does not always make me cry. It was the way Carla sang it, and how radiant she looked on stage cracking herself up with corny jokes that brought me to an emotional edge I don't have the words to describe. Today it spilled over when C and I talked in the kitchen.

"I really liked the way she did 'I'll be seeing you (in all the old familiar places,)'" he said.

"She did that song for Maclen, thinking about after she's gone, everywhere he'll look in Berkeley he'll see her and think of her--" and then the real tears started, because I can't hold onto my denial anymore. Even me, who is so good at it, who had 30 years practise with my mom's M.S. I can't stay there, plus Carla won't let me. She's moving so fast now, the physical symptoms are progressing, and so is the light and understanding within her, as if they were in a race to keep pace with each other.

I can't keep up.

Today she told me about the breathing machine she'll start using, about feeling the end of being able to sing in the future, and about needing a wheelchair more and more.

"It's hard for me to hear this," I said, because there was nothing else I could say.

"I know. But I have to tell you; I have to be honest about what's happening."

"I want you to tell me. I feel honored that you tell me. It's just hard for me to hear."

"I know. But it would be worse if it weren't hard, wouldn't it?"

So we sat a minute in the hardness of it. Then a minute later we were laughing about euphemisms for blow jobs. That's Carla.

Quiet weekend. We've been working on the in-law--that is, C's been working on it. He put in a security door, and is re-roping windows and preparing a major overhaul of the bathroom, plus preparing to paint the whole thing. There's very little I can do at this point, so I'm sitting here staring at my new play, Shame Circus.

I have a good feeling about this play. I think the concept and the execution are more interesting, more wild, closer to poetry than anything else I've done yet. Tomorrow I'll go to a Playwright's Foundation class about using the I Ching as an oracle to help in the playwriting process--which sounds far-out, but also fascinating. Another essay rejected by MORE; one left to go. I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch. I sent another essay to The Sun. The Ledge accepted a poem: "$18.88." (That's the name of the poem.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Love is having its way with me, working me, softening and deepening and joying and me and preparing me for greater sorrows than I ever wanted to face. Moments almost too sweet to be borne: watching C from the kitchen window as he brings roses into the house. He sees me there and holds out the biggest reddest rose to me. The look that passes between us would make a room full of teetotalers drunk. I don't know what to say about love because the power of it makes me speechless. I can only surrender to it. I'm living inside an answered prayer.

The other night after a long day scraping the ceiling he turned to me as we were both dropping off to sleep. The feeling of love was overwhelming. We found ourselves in each others' arms. It was not about sex, not passion only. It was like being swept along in some sort of great tide, one that makes me feel I am exactly in the right place.

Outwardly, things are quiet. C is finishing up his last days of school (seven and counting...) I am here at the computer, looking at a handful of projects: two plays, a couple of essays, two book projects for other people, one collaboration. The house needs to be cleaned and readied for dinner guests and sleepover guests. There are classes to be taught and taken. Trips to the grocery store to pick up lettuce and avocados. On the surface things are mundane.

But running through everything is this flow, this sense, not of "doing the work" as my earnest spiritual friends say, but of letting the work have its way with me. I wanted a family; we will not be having or even adopting a young baby or child. At one time, eating dinner with just the two of us in this big house felt a little fearful and too quiet--I kept listening for the sound of children's laughter that i felt was missing from our life. Now I'm not listening for anything more. The moment is full enough. Love has not met all of my agendas, but allowed me the grace to set my agendas aside and open to whatever comes next.

It has not made me a better, thinner, or more efficient person. I'm still just going to the grocery store and forgetting to get more Lact-Aid 2% milk. What has shifted has been so subtle; less fear, more love. I did not want to love C this completely, because I feared/fear he will die before I do. My mother died, Alan died. Carla has a fatal disease. C is in good shape, but he has diabetes, which is associated with heart attacks and strokes. I was afraid; I am still afraid, but less so. I am loving fully despite fear of loss. That is all. It's simple and hard. Keep opening, keep opening.

Also; I was afraid to love anyone fully because I was afraid they would discover what a dweeb I am; how messy, inefficient, lazy, and all the other faults I accuse myself of. Well, C has seen. He knows. He's dragged me out of bed by the heel on a cold winter morning when I did not want to go to work. He's observed me wasting time, and being immature, close-up and personal. And he loves me anyway. And he's a dweeb as well. Again, a simple, ordinary, mundane miracle, but one I never thought would be mine. And here it is, glowing, not in the center of my palm, where I can grasp it or drop it, but in the center of my being.

I spent sweet time with Carla the other day, just massaging her shoulder, talking and listening. This is still just daily life, more heightened now, but all the same content. Driving places, picking up, dropping off. Creating, editing, paying bills, making the bed. This miracle of love, like a live, pulsing, muscular river, flowing through everything.

It is not there to feed my vanity, help me lose weight, or make me better or more special. If anything I feel less special, more humble and grateful just to be alive and blessed with this ordinary extraordinary gift. Just eating salad together at night after a hard-fought game of tennis, with a cold beer and a couple of candles, brings tears, is a feast of gratitude almost too rich to eat.

Yesterday I walked around the lake with Laurie and we talked about plans for the class we will teach weekend after next and the book we want to write. Today I picked up my Tony Hoagland book (he's one of my favorite poets! Read him!) and found the following passage, which I love so much I will copy it out here.

The Slipperiness of Metaphor

There is something irreconclably, neurologically primal about the act of metaphor. This primal wildness conceals it from us. Of the hinterlands of the gray matter, where metaphors roam free, our data is all rumor, conjecture, and anecdote. Because metaphorical speech is such a commonplace, because almost anyone can and does produce metaphor on a daily basis, we assume that it is scrutable. Because it is a mental process, because it takes place within our own heads (on our property), because it leaves our own authorial lips, we assume we know something of its workings. But we do not. Invariably, the only adequate way to describe the metaphorical event is by another metaphor. It is a mystery hand going into a black mystery box. The head says, "Fetch me a metaphor, hand," and the hand disappears under a cloth. A moment later, the hand reappears, metaphor on its extended palm. But, despite the spontaneity and ease of this event, we have only a vague idea where the image came from. In fact, we don't know. And neither does the hand."

from "Tis Backed Like a Weasel" The slipperiness of metaphor
Real Sofistikashon, Essays on Poetry and Craft by Tony Hoagland

Monday, June 09, 2008

We've started renovating the in-law, which means that yesterday found both of us on top of stepladders (one of my least comfortable places, coming in second or third to being at the gynecologiest's with my feet up in stirrups,) scraping toxic plaster gunk off the ceiling. Apparantly it was fashionable in the 70s to spray this popcorn-textured stuff onto the ceiling--don't ask me why--and don't ask me what it's made of. I'm just praying it's not asbestos because I got almost as much of it in my hair, eyes and clothing as I did on the floor.

To do this work, we first had to re-route the garden hose into the window and spray the ceiling with water. Then up on the ladders with scrapers. We worked well together and did the whole thing in about two hours of hard labor, with no fighting or biting, just a lot of sweating and grunting. I insisted we take before and after pictures so the whole laborious process is getting documented.

Next weekend we'll spend a glamorous time doing further scraping and then priming and ultimately painting. C is in charge of the project, because of his superior skills and knowledge of construction. He's the one who's going to install a new toilet, sink and vanity in the in-law bathroom, as well as renovate the shower. I'll follow along, doing whatever I can (more and more, the more I learn how to use the tools. I can use the power drill now--sort of.)

It's not exactly a day at the beach, but it's not so bad, either. We have a good physical rapport, which allows us to work together. I'm glad we're attempting this project at our current stage of relationship. Doing it earlier we would have run into more problems because of the difference in our styles: he is careful, methodical, meticulous. I am impatient and impulsive. As soon as it was decided we'd rehab the in-law I went in there and started trying to pry nails out of the wall with my bare hands. C followed me around with the proper tools, encouraging me to use them.

But I've (mostly) stopped biting his head off when he corrects what I'm doing or suggests a better approach, and he's learned to trust that I'm a hard worker and that I'll hang in next to him when it gets gritty and nasty. So, I think we're ready for this next step into deep intimacy: home improvement.

After the work we took a ride out to Pleasanton to look at tandem bicycles. they cost an unholy amount of money, but it looks like huge fun, and it would solve the problem of C wanting to take long bike rides and me not being much of a cyclist. As long as I can have a big fat cushy woman's seat for my big fat cushy rear-end, I'm game to do it.

I have been reading plays; the latest is Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley. It's like a finely constructed mini-cathedral, the structure perfectly balanced, the argument fairly and intricately and equally balanced on all sides so you are left really not knowing who is right. The audience is left to struggle with their own doubt, which is brilliant.

Over the weekend I revised the Marie Antoinette play--finally got it right--and then added a small ten-minute play based on the Larry Craig debacle that broke last year--the men's room in the airport gay sex sting. I need a third or perhaps a fourth scandal to make this trilogy complete--I'm calling it Shame Circus, Three Arias. I've sent away for Caryl Churchill's plays--she uses avant garde structures, where the same actors reappear in different roles, and environments and times change radically within the course of the play.

Unlike Shanley's more classic structure--Doubt is the quintessential "well-made play,"--Churchill makes the aundience take great leaps. There's a lot of risk and I'm not sure how she does it, except that this stuff must cook a lot in her subconscious. I'm hoping the collections of her plays include an essay about her process. I'm having my own little mini-literature course at home this summer, completely self-directed. Dad has sent me some of the short early novels of Philip Roth, which are in a pile, waiting to be read; meanwhile, last night I started on a comllection of Tony Hoagland's essays about poetry. Hoagland is one of my favorite poets, one of the ones I would most like to study with, and his prose is lively and funny just like his poetry.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Such a wild surge of hope and elation and gratitude and fear and tremulousness and...hope, watching Barack Obama claim the Democratic nomination last night. We only get the educational channel and a Spanish language channel on our TV and so watched him in Spanish. What a beautiful, moving sight. And his wife, Michelle, is a queen, such grace and majesty and she is a big woman, tall and solid and strong. I'm so glad she's not a sylph!

Watching them, I felt the same crazy rush of romantic hope one feels at the beginning of a love affair, coupled with the gut-churning fear of all the possible scary places this could lead--committment, heartbreak, betrayal, death. I can't help it. That is the moment we as a nation are in right now. The moment of one more time allowing ourselves to fall in love with hope. Possibility.

Carla says that hope is not good for her right now. She says if a cure is found, great, but she can't live in that place of wanting and expecting. She has to live in what is, and take her joy in the fleeting present moments of reality.

Emily Dickinson said, "Hope is that thing with feathers."

Fragile, dangerous. Hope, like happiness, makes us vulnerable to disappointment. I couldn't stand it if something happened to Obama. I want to encase him in a big bubble of protection. I couldn't stand it if something were to happen to C. To Carla. I can't stand it that I can't protect my loves, my hopes, my hope for a long peaceful happy healthy life.

To tune into the news these days is to veer between despair and terror and...hope.

Yesterday I received an email from my friend Jackie that was so powerful and eloquent I asked if I could share it on this blog. She and her partner, Dawn, have been together 24 years. They have raised five children together, four of them adopted, and are now helping to raise their grandchildren. They have weathered illnesses, disability, job loss, financial problems, and high school--five times. They have stayed the course with humor and tough love. If any two people deserve to call themselves married, these do.

I had written to Jackie inviting them to come down and get married at my synagogue. My rabbi, David Cooper, is doing a big wedding for gay and lesbian couples later this month. Jackie gave me permission to share her response here.

Bless you for offering your home and hospitality. We thank you. It would be really cool to visit your synagogue. I'm not sure we could afford to do something... formal at this point. We're sort of stunned that the chance might present itself, and at the thought that we'd have to take an airplane without our family to do this. If the court doesn't put a "stay" on this and it really happens we'll have to figure it out and make it work. You can imagine we are not optimistic that it will happen for real, or about the reality that the voters could annul this in November. You've got to wonder, what's the point if they're going to take it back? I felt so heartbroken for the San Francisco couples that tied the knot and got it taken away again...

As I write, I realize I had no idea just how frightening a risk it would be to go the distance and to live with the potential of revocation. I also didn't realize how fragile and vulnerable I felt around this precious window of opportunity. I've been an activist my whole adult life about the rights of other groups and the rights of my tribe. I have wanted to have this particular right for us for so long. I appear confident, cavalier, or intense to others, but rarely vulnerable.

I've been present and rock steady when they stitched up my kids at the emergency room, or set a bone, and when my grandbabies crowned and arrived in the wide world. I was concerned or thrilled and experienced waves of emotion the crested and broke, ebbed and flowed. I was still standing and still holding onto strength for each event. Somehow, the ground becomes soft and slippery at the onramp to this bridge. I'm not the least bit nervous about getting hitched, but the idea that it might require retreat, backing the bus over the bridge and back down the ramp brings me to tears, instantly.

When Noah was about 4 he asked me, "Gramma, what does 'holy cow' mean?" I told him people said that when they were amazed, and often when they didn't know what else to say or didn't have the right words to express how big something was or how impressed they felt. This child had an immense vocabulary. A similar question followed about 'holy smokes.' Not long after that when something really peaked his wonder he exclaimed, "Holy smokes AND cow!" I think that says it all, don't you? J

Love you,

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

C was up till all hours last night, fixing the agitator in the washing machine, and then fixing the nailer. He gets such pleasure out of handling tools, making things work, intelligent design. A good balance to the work at Juvenile Hall where you can do your best but the outcome is out of your hands.

We're revving up for summer vacation--mine has already started. I'm back at my desk, reconfiguring See How We Almost Fly for the 10,000th time, getting ready to send it out to five new contests. I wonder if this process will ever end. It is discouraging, it feels like flushing twenty-dollar bills down the toilet. I've entered a bunch of contests this past year, won two for individual poems, netting $2,000.00, nothing to complain about, but the book contract has so far eluded me. For seven years now. So I'm complaining.

Free-lance writing is a lot about waiting: I'm waiting to hear from the editor at MORE about two essays which I sent her--she says the end of next week. The Sun has two other essays of mine--they've had them for months. I'm not on tenterhooks or anything, I know they'll get back to me whenever. Modern Love has another essay and I'll either hear from them or I won't.

I'm still waiting for the check to come in for the production of my play, for the money to come from the second poetry contest I won; to get paid for the classes I taught at the high school, for the class I've been teaching in the city. I just now got paid for the second grade class I taught this spring. Waiting, waiting.

Like C, I need something that gives predicable solid gratification, that takes me into the now. For me, it's dancing, improvising, painting sometimes, gardening sometimes. I'm going to go to Urban Re-leaf this Saturday and plant some trees. I'm signed up to volunteer to assist in a self-defense class, and I'll be taking another class at the end of this month--multiple assailants and weapons. And I just got called by Big Brothers/Big Sisters--they've matched me up with another girl, a young one, seven years old. Yay! Children are the most grounding energizing force I can think of.

And I'm knitting a blue baby blanket for my stepbrother's child, due later this month. Out of the silkiest softest organic cotton.