Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chamomile Sounds Good

I'd come up to see if Dad was ready for a cup of tea, maybe a bowl of oatmeal too. He was in bed, under the down comforter, green winter cap on his head. He was looking better, not so pale, eyes clear.

He said, "I've had an interesting revelation."
"What is that?" I said.
"It's come to me that it doesn't really matter if I live or die," he said.
"It's freeing," he said.
"Okay. So," I said, "it doesn't really matter whether you live or die. Freeing. Okay."

We looked at each other for a moment.

"Okay, so what kind of tea would you like?" I asked.
"Chamomile sounds good," he replied.

Friday, July 30, 2010

I Don't Feel Lost

Claire said, "Even when I don't know where I am...on the ocean, I don't feel lost."

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Dad has been hit with a bad chest cold, fever, exhaustion; he is weak in the knees. After trying home remedies all day yesterday, Claire and I bundled him up and took him to the doctor this afternoon.

Everything with Dad is turtle-paced. It took forty-five minutes to get him out the door and into the car. I drove slowly through the neighborhood, waiting for him to fasten his seat belt.

"Need some help with that, Dad?"
Then, click.
"Accomplishment," he whispered.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Water Gap Players

This is the most recent incarnation of The Water Gap Players, an oddball, free-flowing collection of people who love to act; that's what we do.

Everyone holds a day (or night) job such as chaplain in a psyche ward [hail Leah], instructional aide in a kindergarten classroom, facilitator of workshops dealing with domestic violence in the military, smoking cessation counselor, bartender/innkeeper, writer.

Okay: writing is my day job.

But the heck with the day jobs! What matters is that we rehearsed for the last two months, so we could put on a show. And we did!

Last night we turned The Deerhead Inn, beloved local jazz club, into a black box theater for the 2nd time this year. Tables were moved out of the way, chairs were set up, drinks served... lights, great audience. Go.

I write plays. Lucky for me, these people like to be in them. Toss in a receptive crowd from the community who support us so generously, and I'm weeping with gratitude. I know, this is sounding a bit Waiting for Guffman-ish. You know, Corky St. Claire? I don't care. [see the movie. you'll pee your pants!]

I'm feeling like a mother who just gave birth to quadruplets. Tired, but really happy. The tired thing may be from the sorta cast party where we ended up at the Minisink [local watering hole] around 11:00 pm, cranked up the juke box, inhaled sandwiches at midnight, shot pool, and engaged in a minor dance party before heading home at 1:30 am.

Remember me, dear readers? The one who's in bed with book by nine?

I feel like Grace, a character from my play, "Ziggy's Fish"...

I was all lit up, Mark. Like a Christmas tree...

I was all lit up!

[l to r: Denny Carrig, me, Dave Hymes, Ann Matthews, Leah Thomas, Joe Arner...missing from this photo, Teri Dellaria & Ed Arner]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Being Twenty

Stephanie was our cashier at Target today. Through the course of checking out, we got on the subject of birthdays.

"Today's my Dad's birthday," she said.
"Oh! That's neat. It's my brother's birthday today too!" I said, "And then Saturday is Bill's birthday. He's another brother. Next Monday is my daughter's birthday. It's a birthday sweep."
"Well, tomorrow's my birthday," Stephanie said.
"How old are you going to be?" I asked.
I don't know why I asked. I rarely do.
"Ugh. Twenty," Stephanie said.
"Twenty?" I said. The low groan threw me off.
"Yes. I feel so old!" she said, handing me the receipt.

Stephanie, Stephanie, I wanted to say. But I didn't.

I just smiled and said "You're gonna love being twenty."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hawk Medicine

My writing table sits in front of a picture window in my bedroom. I see a lot of life from here: birds, bears, bunnies, deer, skunks, cats...

The other morning a young hawk flew across the yard. Then I saw a second one, standing clumsily on a pile of brush. I called to Michael to come look. By the time he arrived I'd counted four hawks. They were young ones, taking turns flying. Two were braver, swooping low across the yard. The others hung close to the tall pines, spreading their wings long enough to go from branch to brush, and back again. Every now and then we'd hear them cry out. The hawk's cry is very distinct. If you're asleep, it will wake you up.

Native Americans believe Hawk is a messenger encouraging us to keep our eyes open, to be aware of signs, omens, messages. Whenever I see a hawk, I feel my shoulders drop. Hawk medicine reminds me to take a larger view of my life, to not get mired in the small mind of the ego, whose favorite game is to keep me fearful and worried.

Ever since the initial sighting, I've seen one, sometimes two beautiful birds, standing on the pine branches, watching over the yard. Now and then, they cry out and I stop what I'm doing; long enough to take a deep breath and remind myself to be open to receive...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Legs Stretched Out

Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment? Listening to the night rain on my roof, I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.

~ Ry-kan

A rainy Sunday shout-out to the shiny new faces that have joined This Being Alive...thanks so very much for showing up. I have a singing heart because of you.

With your help, we'll keep right on growing! Yahoo!!!

xo b

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Alive In The Mystery

Just off the phone with Claire, who is still adventuring in Montauk with my brother, Rob and her cousin, Reeve. I must admit, these past few days sans child has been a freedom piece for me. And I miss her. But isn't that the way?

It's the yin/yang of life. Yesterday was a kick-ass day in the yard, ranting at trees and passing squirrels. Today I barely moved. Languishing is the word that comes to mind.

An almost full moon is rising over the Gap...

Let go into the mystery.
Let yourself go.
There is no other place to be,
Baby this I know.
You've got to dance and sing
And be alive in the mystery
And be joyous and give thanks
And let yourself go.

~ Van Morrison

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shed Something

Yesterday I was pulling weeds by 7:30 in the morning. I took a short break to walk 3 miles with Neeny where we continued our on-going discussion about our bodies, children, dogs & husbands, menstrual cycles, or lack thereof, the uncertainties of an artist's life, our dry gardens. It was a good, sweaty walk.

Back to the yard; for three hours I mulched, mowed, picked up limbs from a pine that had fallen. I tied up plants, yanked grass out of the cracks in the walkway, swept the driveway; the whole time talking out loud to myself, or rather, to my imaginary husband, checking off grievances, founded and unfounded.

Every time I tried to shift focus to more positive thoughts, I felt stuck. Blocked. What the hell, I thought, nobody's here. It's just me, trees and the wheelbarrow. Go ahead, have a good rant. I did.

The good news is, I got a lot off my chest and damn if the yard didn't look fabulous when my mouth finally ran dry.

I'm wiggling out of an old skin that no longer fits. I suppose there have been times when it's slid off so easily, I hardly noticed. But not lately. Not yesterday. But I believe that yesterday's rant was a labor of self-love. I suppose, to the outside eye, it may have looked like a mean-streak running right through me.

But I feel lighter today. I must've shed something.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Own Bed

Okay, so I miss the sound of the ocean, the beach, the bikes. Blah blah blah. But honestly...sleeping in my own bed last night was borderline orgasmic. Really. And trust me, nothing like that was happening in tent-ville the past ten days. Yes, there was a lot of family bonding going on, but not that kind.

So, the ceiling fan was gently whirring overhead as I climbed into bed last night. The sheets were clean, and sand-free. And the comfort. Yes. Okay, I moaned. Although, as a side note: it's occurred to me that maybe my all-nighters in the bed of sand (with a few ants) was a kind of full-body exfoliation. Every time I turned over, I got polished. Who knew camping could be so spa-like?

But my own bed. I can feel it calling, whispering softly. Stop typing. Come lie down. The laundry can wait. Maybe that's a good idea. Re-entry into one's regular life can be a bit trying, scary even. So, maybe I need to get horizontal, stretch out.

Thirty minutes tops.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ride A Bike

After spending the last ten days on my red bike, and hardly ever getting in our car, this bumper sticker felt just right. I spotted it in the Delaware Water Gap at the traffic light near the trolley place.

Gas sucks. Ride a bike.

I've vowed to keep riding!

Missing the sound of the ocean and all kinds of other things, like Claire. [We left her with her Uncle Rob until Sunday.] No tent zippers to close, no bush to pee in at two in the morning, no cold shower to ride to on my bike in the morning. I get easily attached to things...

And did I mention the lifeguards?

But home feels good. It's quiet here.

Sleeping in my cushy bed tonight will be bliss in spite of the love affair I developed with our air mattress this past week. It's deflated and put away until the next camping trip, or until company comes.

Time now for bed and book. Sweet dreams, dear readers...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gone native

It's been one full week here at Hither Hills State Park. We set up camp last Sunday after a long drive out east. Then, the rain hit. But we dried up the puddles in our tent, re-staked a few lines, and waited for the sun to come out. It did.

Today is my last full day here. We (me, Michael, and Dad) are heading home tomorrow. We have commitments to get back to. I'm sure I'll be happy to see my lovely home again. And Jess and Elizabeth. And yes, Owen, our old cat. But honestly, I could stay. And here's why:

For a week I haven't heard the sound of a phone ringing, or a newscaster predicting the latest doom and gloom. My hand has not lifted a vacuum. We've washed dishes at the blue spigot, showered under the cold shower by the beach, hopped on our bikes to get around. We've spent the day body surfing and reading at the beach. I've gone to the market, once.

We've cooked spectacular meals on the Coleman stove, brushed our teeth by moonlight, gone to sleep under the half moon.

Have I been cranky? Oh yeah. Two days of rain, in a tent can do that. And since yesterday, my lower back has been screaming. The good news, my upper body feels great. It's all a trade-off, right?

The thing is, we don't need all the things we think we do. If you have enough sarongs, you can create clothing, shelter, beach towels, an evening shawl, a blanket, a theater curtain. I figure if I can boil water for a cup of tea, I'm golden.

The one connection I've had to the world is This Being Alive. Blogging while camping is a funny thing. But it's the one thing I've decided to show up for, every day, no matter where I am. This is post # 141? Yahoo!

Anyway, it's time to log off and get on my bike. If anyone asks where I am, just tell them I've gone native.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Group W Bench

We were at a potluck at our friend's site the other night. There must've been a dozen adults and almost that many kids. Dad, who is a bit hard of hearing, was talking to Mags, a lovely Irish woman who is married to Mark, an old friend from Douglaston.

Mags says to Dad," I'm a speech therapist."
Dad says," You're a beach therapist!?"

That's what I want to be when I grow up...

[ps. had someone take this shot of Group W today @ the beach...we're growing on each other.]

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fresh Pond Landing

This is Fresh Pond Landing, a solitary stretch of beach that Michael discovered while out on his bike. You can travel down paths that a car doesn't want to go. Bikes are good for that.

This photo is from yesterday. Or was it Thursday? I've lost track. Claire thought today was Sunday. It seems we've settled into a camping rhythm, one day sliding into the next. You do some chores around the site, ride bike to the bathroom and rinse off under outside shower. Eat breakfast. Chat with your neighbors at the blue spigot where the dishes get washed. Then decide what to do with the day.

Hang at the beach, swim, read, go to library? Watch the kites flying. Early evening do a read-thru of a ten-minute play where Dad plays a character named Diana, and Rob is Jim, Diana's husband. Brilliant casting.

Cook dinner. [Last night Michael cooked local sea bass on the Coleman stove. It was better than anything you'd get at a restaurant!] Watch the stars. Have cup of tea. Crawl into bed. Read by flashlight. Get up in middle of night to pee. Wake to sound of one small, very loud bird.

Begin again.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Five Nights In A Tent

"Attitude shift is one of surrender. It is yielding, rather than static and lends itself to letting go, rather than holding on."

~ Chandra Alexander

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Through The Campground

On my bike ride through the campground I noticed:

a bunny in the brown grass
a man with angel wings tattooed on his back
a woman inside a screened tent, elbows on the picnic table, gazing into a round mirror.
my friend, Donnie
a big guy on a kid's bike, eating a cob of corn
the ocean
a man smiling at me
a woman in her car, crying
seagulls, knee deep in a puddle
a wooden sign on the side of an RV:
The Turnbull's, Lindenhurst, NY

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Here Comes The Sun

The sky lightened up this morning, then quickly darkened and poured buckets again. Everyone made a mad dash to the cooking tent and battened down the hatches. We had breakfast together, rain be damned. Dad made his signature pot of oatmeal. We heated up water for our tea and coffee. We sang a few old time songs: Row Row Row Your Boat, Michael Row Your Boat A Shore, Here Comes The Sun. Nobody got hurt.

The thing about camping is, you gotta have a sense of humor. Fortunately, that's a strong suit in my family. When in doubt, we laugh at ourselves, each other, and anything else we can get our hands on.

Besides, it stopped raining. And the sun came out.

It always does.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Is Camping

8:30pm: sitting in the General Store after a pounding of rain. It was like a GIANT bucket of marbles had been dumped on our tent. We got a few puddles in the tent and for a while the family bonding got close. Okay, I was completely claustrophobic. And in the middle of hurricane winds, I had to pee. Go figure that my two raincoats are hanging in the closet at home. Michael kindly escorted me to the bathroom under our beach umbrella.

At one point in the midst of the storm, Claire said, "So, this is camping, right?"


Monday, July 12, 2010

Salt Air

This photo's from yesterday. After the four hour car ride over the George Washington Bridge to the Long Island Expressway, a stop at the Lobster Inn off Highway 27 for a late lunch, and then the final push to the campground. I didn't get right into the ocean. But I could hear it. And smell it. I finally jumped in it...yes!

But not until we unpacked the car, set up the tents, cased the place on our bikes. It was very hot. But not as hot as today, which is why I'm holed up in the Montauk Library writing this post.

Hither Hills is a mix of tents and rv's, lots of kids on bikes, American flags, Tibetan prayer flags (thank you, Duncan), blue hydrangeas, very brown grass, dunes full of beach plums, a deliciously cold outside shower, and the ocean.

More later about sleeping in a tent, (did I say sleep?), using public restrooms (stumbling out of the tent at God knows what hour and peeing by the nearest bush), spending time with family...we're bonding big time, and life without a mirror, (amen).

So, this is a mish-mosh. A ramble. Blame it on the heat. Or maybe it's because I stepped on my new sunglasses and cracked a lens. Sh*t! Claire told me I need to stop saying that word.

Note: When in doubt, find the nearest library and cool off.

ps. can you smell the salt air?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

One Can At A Time

Yesterday was the prep day for our camping trip to Hither Hills, the campground at the tip of Long Island in Montauk where I will be sleeping in a tent for the next ten nights. Whose idea was this again? [ My brother, Rob! That's his tent in the photo.]

Jesse and Elizabeth stopped by to visit while we were in the midst of packing. I was filling a green shopping bag with dry food items and beginning to feel twinges of frustration.
"How am I going to pack all this?" I said, wearily.
"One can at a time, Bean." Elizabeth said. The kid doesn't miss a beat.

It turned out to be an endless day of packing, still gathering things together late into the evening. And yes, I had to clean too: mopping, vacuuming, toilets. Our friend, Mary, who is house-sittting, might've drowned in cat hair and the like. It had to be done.

Everyone had trouble getting to sleep. I was still awake after midnight.

Now it's morning. 6:40 to be exact. I had to get up. Bye Bye Black Bird has been looping in the old brain since probably 5:00-ish. You can't fight the looping once it kicks in. It's okay. I've got my cup of tea and thought I'd better post before the last push begins.

I plan to write every day, as always, unless I can't find connection for my laptop. This is a no frills vacation; campground, dunes, ocean. I know, poor me. But there's no electricity at the site. I will bike to the local library if need be to report in on This Being Alive. I am imagining plenty of good stories. Especially since we are strapping Dad and Claire to the roof rack; the car is stuffed.

Thought for today: stay in the moment. And take things, one can at a time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's A Bridge: Part Two

We didn't just happen to be standing next to a cornfield. It wasn't a Friday jaunt. We'd stepped out of the therapist's office, after an hour of talking, but mostly me, sobbing over old ghosts that have been living under my skin, for years. The grief over my dead mother. My beautiful mother who hammered herself with alcohol until she didn't anymore. She got clean. But still, a ghost. And the nightmares of the dead ex-husband, what a smile. The drinking one who had me up against the wall by the end.

You think you've moved on but some things stick, they hang around. Like a stray dog that keeps showing up at the back door. You talk things out with friends, fill notebooks, see somebody. And still, you're not quite in your skin. It always comes down to surrender. To believing there's a way across to the other side, finding the bridge.

That's when we saw the rainbow.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's A Bridge

Michael and I were on our way home from Bethlehem early evening. We weren't in the car when we first saw it. We were standing next to a cornfield. The sky was a tumble of slate gray clouds with a fat white dollop of cloud on top.

Then, the rainbow, arching over all of it, fully formed, touching down on both ends.

Michael said, "Look honey, a rainbow."
I turned around. First thought, it's a bridge.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

We Need Eggs

This morning I had to drop my car off because the brakes were squeaking and another road trip is on the horizon. The plan was for Neeny to meet me at the car place and we'd take a walk. My head hurt just thinking about walking in this heat.

I climbed into her car and sank into the seat.
"I can't walk. It's too hot. I'm tired."
"I'm thinking we need eggs," Neeny said.

So, we went to Mollie's, a local eatery in Stroudsburg and tucked ourselves at a back table. We ordered eggs and french toast, two cups of tea, bacon, and a pancake with blackberries and peaches?

"I'll have one egg, please," I said to our waitress.
"She'll have two," Neeny said, "and so will I. We need eggs."

I can't remember all the stuff we talked about but at one point we laughed until tears were streaming down our faces. That's always good. I ate everything on my plate, plus half of the pancake which was really for Neeny. She didn't have a prayer with the french toast. And she didn't care. Hey! She encourages me to eat her food. Come to think of it, she encourages me, period.

I always tell my girls: count yourself lucky if you have one dear friend in your corner. But if you're at a back table eating eggs with her? Bliss.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dorothy Southam

My mother, Dorothy, had an easy wave. She would lean to one side, smile, and then her arm would come up like a comma. Sometimes her other hand would be in her pocket. The whole thing was like a soft stretch.

Today is Mom's birthday. I started the morning out okay. But the heat has worn me down, the day's grown too long. I feel the loss of her, fresh again.

Earlier I was short with Claire. And then snapped at Michael on the phone. Because the truth is, I want my mother. And no one else will do.

But as I type this I can hear her. Oh, darling. Please don't get maudlin. I'm fine.

She was a voracious reader.
She had a green thumb.
She never forgot a birthday.
She was an okay whistler.
She cooked a lot of chicken for the soup kitchen.
She loved her kids and grandchildren.
She had wonderful friends.
She would never have had a blog.

"If I get to come back again, Bets, I want to be a dancer," she'd tell me, now and then.

Dance, then, wherever you may be.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Naomi & Mel

I can't stop thinking about Naomi Schwartz, the volunteer we spoke to last night at the concert. Naomi was telling us about the history of Tanglewood and how it came to be a musical magnet in the late 1930's. How so many young people who studied there went on to have successful careers as musicians, singers, conductors, composers.

Naomi had silver-gray hair. She wore glasses. Her fingers were slender. I liked the way she tilted her head when she spoke to us.

"How did you come to volunteer here?" I asked.
"I never had to do it," she said, "because Mel did. I just came with him."
"Well, that sounds like a good deal," I said.
"I lost Mel two years ago," she went on, "and I thought, well, I guess it's my turn."

We're home now from our snapshot of a trip. I'm feeling a little like did we really get away? The air conditioners are humming; it's taking a long time for the house to cool down. Claire's asleep. Dad and my brother, Rob, are bunking upstairs. Michael's quietly tapping out a James Taylor song on the piano:

Well, the sun is surely sinking fast. And the moon is slowly rising. And this old world must still be spinning round, and I still love you.

I can't stop thinking about Naomi and Mel.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You've Got A Friend

July 5th: James Taylor & Carole King (& Yo Yo Ma!) @ Tanglewood in the Berkshires...

and our waitress, Britney
and Officer Wright
and Naomi Schwartz
and Tim

lots of stories for This Being Alive...

xo b

[photo by Michael]

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th Of July

Happy Independence Day!!!

Off the mountain for a brief stop, check on the cat, feed the turtle, then heading back UP for another night around the bonfire. Kicking off tomorrow with Dad's 84th birthday, and then Michael and I are driving to Tanglewood in the Berkshires to see Carole King and James Taylor in concert. Whoo-hoo!

Anyway, checking in with one of my latest favorite bumper stickers...

Sail on!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Up The Mountain

We're heading up the mountain to gather with family and celebrate the 4th of July. I'm jamming necessities, like Goldfish crackers, into my green shopping bags. You know how you start emptying out the fridge and shove your toothbrush into your back pocket? So, I'm not the most organized camper. But I'm leaving you this beautiful poem by James Wright to meditate on, maybe get us all thinking about the blessings in our lives. I'm going to see my brothers, dip in the cool water of the pond, pick blueberries, sit around the bonfire tonight, and catch up with the people who've known me my whole life...

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,

Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.

And the eyes of those two Indian ponies

Darken with kindness.

They have come gladly out of the willows

To welcome my friend and me.

We step over barbed wire into the pasture

Where they have been grazing all day, alone.

They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their


That we have come.

They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.

There is no loneliness like theirs.

At home once more,

They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness

I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,

For she has walked over to me

And nuzzled my left hand.

She is black and white,

Her mane falls wild on her forehead,

And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear

That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.

Suddenly I realize

That if I stepped out of my body I would break

Into blossom.

-James Wright

Friday, July 2, 2010

Call Me Linda

My friend, Jayne is visiting from Salt Lake City. As it often is with old friends, we settled into conversing about all kinds of things; like how women (and girls) often long to look like somebody else...

We were sitting out on the big rockers in the backyard and out of the blue Jayne said "It's amazing how early it starts. I can remember being around six years old and wanting to have blonde hair and be called Linda."