Join us Saturday, July 22, at Tecolote Book Shop!

On Saturday afternoon, July 22, I will be at Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito, CA, to read from and sign copies of my newest collection of poetry and photographs, Ireland, Place Out of Time. Come join me from 3-5 p.m. for conversation, wine and appetizers

Tecolote is at 1470 East Valley Road, in Montecito, near Santa Barbara. If you can't make it, you can order my book here.

On the Move Again

I'll miss this view from our deck in Summerland, which we've called home for a little over a year.

I'll miss this view from our deck in Summerland, which we've called home for a little over a year.

Re-entry after coming home from Hedgebrook has been hectic and all-consuming. My week on Whidbey Island allowed for writing and reflection, thank goodness, especially after a two-week trip to France, during which I got news that my younger sister had died. It’s been an emotional time. Now I am in the middle of moving again, to a new home across town.

We have only about four more days to pack before the move. And it won’t be long after I'm settled in that Rob wants to begin renovation. I imagine I will be spending a lot of time in the relative peace and quiet of a coffee shop once that starts. It’s never a dull moment with Rob, for whom life is all about the journey.

As I wrote from Hedgebrook, I’m going to stop posting excerpts of my memoir while I revise it. Meanwhile, I’ll write more blog posts about our trips to Ireland last fall and France last month. Travel is a marvelous way to get to know oneself better—and of course your significant other. Both trips have been incredible learning experiences—for both of us. Our next “trip” will be a home renovation…stay tuned!

Seeing the Unseen

Playa Langosta, Costa Rica

A short break in the rain and I head out for a beach walk. One of the things I’ve learned here is to look closely; you will always see something you didn’t notice before. Corkscrew shells scattered in the sand. Tiny fish darting in tide pools. Lilliputian hermit crabs in multicolored shells on the volcanic rock along the shoreline. They move so slowly as to be almost imperceptible. Yet if you squat down and look, really look, you’ll see their tiny legs sprouting from under the shell, antenna moving this way and that.

When I was at Ecocentro Danaus, I would have missed everything without Olman’s trained eye. Monos in the treetops high above. A slow-moving gorrobos climbing a tree. Sloths sleeping in the tallest branches, even with binoculars appearing as nothing more than brown blobs, perhaps birds’ nests or clusters of decaying foliage. Even when he took my shoulders and pointed me directly at whatever creature he wanted me to see, I still struggled to detect it. The green lizard in the ferns. The tiny bat hanging upside down inside a decaying banana leaf. The sleeping Fleischmann’s glass frog (once I looked, I could see its pale eyelids closed, its wee sides expanding and contracting with each rapid breath). Even the bright orange-and-blue dart frog. At first my eyes just couldn’t find it in the leaves Olman parted with his hands. Then, suddenly, it came into view, and I had to catch my breath with its beauty.

How often do we not see the things so plain to others? I realize I’ve spent most of my life not seeing. Not understanding. Unable to connect the dots. It’s almost as if I’ve spent the past seven years slowly opening my eyes. Watching my life unfold, come into stark relief, colors growing vibrant with each revelation.

It’s been painful. And the journey continues. But, finally, I am moving forward with both eyes - and my heart - wide open.

Costa Rica in the Rain

It’s spring in Costa Rica, and there’s a reason they call it the wet season. It’s been raining almost non-stop for two days. Driving, reverberating downpours. Monsoon-like washings that seem to cleanse the soul as much as the air. I look out at the sea and watch it roil, brown sand billowing up with each crest of wave.

This is a beautiful country. I am in Guanacaste, on the north Pacific coast, and while it’s lush and green now, by February it will be hot, dry and dusty. In almost every case, the only way to get anywhere is to go through San Jose, the capital in the middle of the country. All roads lead from there to every place else for the most part. As a consequence, most travelers fly to and from the major tourist areas through San Jose.

When I arrived, I took a bus from San Jose to Playa Langosta, where I am staying, a six-hour drive. It was a great way to see the countryside. Major roads are paved, for the most part. But many are dirt (or mud) and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency to pave them. In Tamarindo, the small pueblo nearby, the road alternates between dirt and broken pavement, and the dirt road features great maws of pot holes scattered with rocks. Still, the small taxis (mostly some kind of tiny Toyota) blast through at breakneck speed.

Everyone drives all over the road, edging out into traffic without regard for oncoming cars, beeping horns that no one seems to pay any attention to. Small dogs, thin, brown or black, with tall ears and long tails, run freely across the roads and loll in the front yards of tiny haciendas painted bright colors. Horses and cattle graze on the sides of the road between the pavement and the fences, oblivious to traffic.

“In my country, the horses are on the other side of the fence,” I told Olman, my driver, and he laughed.

People are warm and generous. Every taxi driver asks (in varying degrees of comprehensible Ingles) how many children I have and how old they are. Where I am from. How long I am here. Where I’ve been. My Espanol is limited, but somehow we manage to communicate. Olman speaks exceptional Ingles, so when we went to Arenal Volcano, in central Cosa Rica, I got a two-day lesson in Espanol.

Como se dice, What is the name of this town?” I asked.

Como se llama, a qui? (How do you call this place?) o Cuantos el nombre esta pueblo? (What is the name of this town?)”

"Como se dice, I went to the Arenal Volcano and was lucky. I saw lots of animals?”

“Yo fue volcan Arenal y tuve mucho suerte. Puede ver mucho animales.”

“Okay, si. Gracias.”

And so it went all the way over and back.

Except for the cook and maid (neither of whom speak more than a few words of Ingles), I’ve been alone for the past five days and I’m feeling a little homesick. Last night I Skyped with my friend, Leah, who is staying at my house, and got to see my dog, Chevella. That cheered me up.

I head home in just eight days, and the best news is my memoir is almost complete. It was the reason I came to Central America, and finishing it feels like reaching a huge milestone after working on it for almost five years, mostly in fits and starts. In December, I graduate from Antioch University, Los Angeles, with a master of fine art degree in creative writing. After all that’s happened since 2005, the past two years seem like a flickering light, a reverie, a bright sliver of reassurance that life can be good, it can be hopeful, indeed, joyful.