Canyons, and Proof of Water

Today, I left my usual perch in the canyon, where I watch the crows (who have successfully fended off the hawks) to explore further into the gulley. I walked past the bungalow hidden in a copse of trees to find a series of makeshift benches and ramshackle drawbridges, more quizzical houses deep set in the ravine, and a series of stone and wood sculptures, proof that I’m not the only one that walks this walk.

Cayden graduated elementary school this morning, and it was like discovering a flagstone staircase, else a burgeoning flower on a warp of cactus. New, but not unseen before. New to me.

I couldn’t be a prouder dad. Gold merit awards, certificates of bilinguality. Cayde with his chosen bow tie and beaming smile. My furiously independent kid with his fading fuschia hair and curious questions, off to middle school where he wants to learn a third language and continue his math. My kid, MY kid, beautiful and rambunctious, explored and unexplored at once, like the gulley that opens up into a bigger canyon, a dry river bed that shows also proof of water.


Missing Janet

It begins again—the morning—where crows have replaced gulls, the squirrels run gaily up palm trees, and the woodpecker raps on anything tympanic to prove his skull is a sound thing, sound and sound, looking for a mate by tapping into any resonant thing that will prove he is a good forager and worthy companion.

The eucalyptus has dropped a few limbs; I have been up walking, then descending into my usual canyon sit where the aloe has managed a pup, and where the Australian trees have rooted and grown tall.

I walk this route every day, do my canyon sit; I say ‘hello’ to my friend, Chris, at Qwik Stop where I pick up a ginger beer and walk the avenues.

At 7 in the morning, the restaurant supply trucks come through, air brakes on point, grumbling their wares down Restaurant Row, and the joggers are out with absent-face determination. I like this antemeridian existence, where suddenly I recognize everyone that does, too. The dog-walkers and runners, the bus-riders and morning-risers. Awake with the sunrise and feeling the first light of the day; seeing it, but also feeling it.

Occasionally, only occasionally, it can be lonely. Like today. I miss Janet. I miss my Mamó.

“What do you always say about April?” Jenn asks, while she does her ablutions and I have a cup of coffee on the bathtub lip.

“April is the cruelest month.” This is from TS Eliot, also my memoirs.

April has taken away three people from me, three important ones. I don’t have a lot to say this morning; I fall laconic. What can you say sometimes?

Jenn rubs my knee and looks at me lovingly, wordless.



chrysalisI wake up with the sunrise everyday now. I make Jenny coffee and I sit outside to watch the horizon brighten. I have a particular chair I sit in. This a few hours after my Middle Awakening, when I’m up at one o’clock for an hour before settling back into bed.

A caterpillar has made its way up my chair, a bannister variety of chair with scroll arms and a rustic finish. The caterpillar made a chrysalis where its body will emulsify before being reformed, essentially liquefying itself before re-emerging more delicate and built of paper. More beautiful, like the magenta bougainvillea sepals that brighten our windows, else the poppies that have since bloomed.

Jenn was first to notice the cocoon and wrote to me: the caterpillar spinning itself with silk is not a metaphor, but a literal thing, an ornament on my chair, grey and comma-shaped and something saw-toothed.

But it is a metaphor. I insist.

I’ve been told I look younger these days, a Benjamin Buttons transformation, and more on butterfly wings than on spines. In being so, I feed on nectar now, and my fragility is less important that I am no longer an earth-bound thing.

A metaphor of metamorphosis. Both words from the Greek: the former meaning ‘to transfer’, the latter meaning, ultimately, ‘to transform.’


How We Can Die

How We Can Die: a Story

Frankie had asbestositis, terminal, but he told all the nurses, “See I still have all of my hair!” And he had a full head of fine black hair, coifed despite his pillow-rest.

“And all these are mine,” he said smiling counting the teeth in his head.

He was a dancing man, but was bed-bound. His nurse climbed into bed with him the evening before he died, and she flung her weight up and down on the bed so that Frankie could dance again, and one last time.

He died the next morning.

This is a true story.


Dear Delaney (3)

Dear Delaney:

1) The rain is gentle and it falls from a white sky. No perceptible clouds, just white. I stare at the sky with my wife who I love increasingly each day until my heart is a heart-shaped thing, and not just a muscle in my chest. I close my eyes and they are as blank as the sky, as if they had no memory.
2) Turns out I’m a good part Irish, but you probably knew that. You had intuition that was otherworldly, and I’m only now learning that you knew things about me that I didn’t when you were still alive. St. Thomasin.
3) I always wonder what you saw when you died—’det’ you called it in prediction of your demise—and when you said, “O there you are,” and I wonder who ‘you’ was, was it maybe that you saw yourself in a cosmic mirror, at the end of your life. You always meant to understand yourself.
4) I have split sleep this days: first and second, and in the witching hour I write and think of how we used to pen letters back and forth while the laundry tumbled at 2 in the morning and the only sound was the mockingbird that lives atop my roof.
5) Only five bulletpoints today, my Tin Man friend, five as a trinity but added with two, as we were, my Friend—a two of star-crossedness, and shy of Orion’s belt. I miss you, Delaney, and still love you. xo


The Holdfast

holdfastTook a beach walk with my family today, and—just as the morning started—the afternoon was interrupted, too, with silent and solitary meditation. Separated myself briefly and found a bench overlooking the ocean. We had been poring over the rocks looking for heart-shaped ones, my aunt and I, and remarked the tributaries of micah sand that flowed around the beds of stone. We looked for a kelp holdfast—didn’t find one—but when you break open a holdfast you can find brittlestars that fit on your thumbnail.

This morning I was awake and listened to last night’s rain drip methodically through the ficus leaves and this afternoon I saw the waters multiplied in the expanse of the ocean, me alone on a bench overlooking the sea. It’s the law of optics that the horizon is a mile distant, but in that short mile there was a multitude of colors, the grey of the crashing surf and the deep lilac of the more distant waters, just beautiful.

There was a lone surfer and an even more lone pelican, wings outstretched and riding the breeze, narrow and made to ride the zephyrs. All was quiet despite the multitude of Winnebago campers and the sun was something hazy behind the clouds.

Beauty reveals itself to those who watch, and my eyes were open, my knee something of hurt, but there on the bench—just like the bench in the canyon this morning—I cupped my hands and prayed to the Universe, accepting the calm, Laughing Buddha, watching as the sea expressed its sometimes peace. I was happy.


Dear Delaney (2)

Dear Delaney:

1) Guess what? My aunt revealed the results of her ancestry study today. Turns out I’m not 100% Dutch like I thought. I’ve got a good dose of Irish in me, which helps explain our kindred nature, and why you still appear to me in dreams, even if to walk by my side silent. Signs and omens, omens and signs.
2) This explains Finn, who you loved, all of red hair, fair skin, and blue eyes; a
unicorn like you. Finn McCool, you called him.
3) I stared at the ocean today.
4) I stared at a garden today.
5) You would burn white candles and crawl into the confines of an empty bathtub when you wanted to be chuted, your auti bits needing satisfaction, just like my brain which sometimes needs emptying and me needing chuting as well, wrapping myself deep in my grandmother’s quilt, just like your sojourns beneath your Gramma’s tree.
6) My uncle showed me a picture of the mausoleum plaque of my grandmother, where she resides in a wall, and it turns out her maiden name is a Dutch derivation of the French, Picard. I am French and Irish and Dutch: a N. European mutt. We have Viking ancestors, the both of us, and to have a funeral where they shoot a burning arrow to burn our bodies, just like when you went to the ‘toaster’ years ago, turning your mortal coil into something of ash.
7) You would like this: a million Adelie penguins were discovered in a place called Danger Island, which has an OZ sounding name, Tin Man. In a desert you’ve been to, a million penguins can still hide. They’ve been sought out for years. I know Feets is your number one, but how amazing to find so much life relocated?
8) I’m in love with my wife. In a way I’ve never known before. You were always curious about love.
9) I’m continuing your tradition of Breakfast Bops, and Janet’s revealing letters you’ve written. You are loved in your departure.
10) I love you forever, my Friend xo


Canyon Song

videoblocks-four-crows-fly-away-from-an-eucalyptus-tree-slow-motion_s5tz5_w5_thumbnail-small11I sit in the canyon and it’s not crepuscular, so fairly few birds are out. Crows dominate the scene and I ask myself: “What dominates me?” And an hour before, I laid with Jenn on the bed with my arms wrapped around her and I told her that she was my soulmate. With fullest intention, with all of my hummingbird heart.

And the crows were gliding, the warblers were absent, still I sat in the canyon with my stupid ginger beer and watched the trees as they creaked their eucalyptus voice.

Did you know I’m a writer? I write in my head constantly, even if just saying declarative words to post-stamp the things I see. I’m an existential notary. I’m a poet. ‘Bees.’ ‘Flower.’ ‘Children.’

I meet Kim at the top of the canyon and she’s sitting and thinking, too. Just with a bag of Cheetos and a cigarette.

“I’m Thom. Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Kim. This canyon is nice.”

Her Toyota Camry is parked neatly, and I do this too. Park neatly and sit and think.

What crime is this to talk of the trees, when there are so many other horrors? Yet, the smell of clean laundry fills my nose, the sound of my baby’s laughter. Hearing my wife’s voice echo in my head like a kind Apollo’s helmet.

Just the sound of her voice, the canyon. Life and how to live it.


Vignette 10 1/2

He has dreadlocks that—like Stevie Wonder—are beaded, just in gold. Cuffed pants, striped socks. Perhaps on something, because he’s clutching a selection of golf clubs and an iPad while sitting on the staircase next to the bar at 8 in the morning.

I am nonplussed. This morning I said my mantras, and the sun peeked and warmed me.

“What’s up, Brother? That’s a good song,” I say because he’s playing Vampire Weekend and I like Vampire Weekend.

“I like this song, too,” he says flashing a smile while wielding a nine iron and wandering a circle.

I like this song, too.


Vignette Nine

My hand has developed a new crease from where it rests on the laptop, and a new callous.

Cayde’s mouth hurts; he stays home from school, where Jenn, too, is sleeping.

We go to Luigis for some pie and billiards. The table is out of order, so we play shuffleboard.

A police officer walks up and at first I think truancy, but the guy just asks if Cayde wants a sticker; I say ‘yes’ and he goes to his SUV and delivers Cayde a badge.

“Thank you for your service,” I shake his hand. Because my cousin-in-law is blue and has seen people crumpled accordion in their car and has also been tasked with finding decapitated heads down the freeway markers. He shakes my hand with a grip that is as hard as the grip I lend to him.

We play shuffleboard and Cayde comes back to beat me: 11-10. He is a whiz.

The veggie pizza is the best and we leave badged and better, pie in the belly and loving this place we call home, life precious.