PAUSE

Good Morning! Another beautiful morning when I pause to notice. The pause to notice can be the difference between a good day or a crunched, not-so-good day.

I’ve wasted a lot of time over the course of my life with worry, strife and pressure to conform. While all the time, my ever-patient soul stands on the sidelines waiting for me to pause, acknowledge it and move in the direction that I need to go next. It’s no longer about waiting for a better time or set of circumstances. The soul stands there, hands on hips, frown on its face, tapping its foot impatiently (not literally), reminding me that time is short and I need to get on with it.

“With what exactly?” I inquire. “The life you are here to live!” of course.

There have been times that I wanted to divorce myself. Because…I’m too sensitive, It’s too difficult, I’m afraid, I don’t have what it takes, I’m not talented enough, I haven’t had formal training, I’m not focused. This sweet and familiar litany of excuses.

Life is short and I want to cram everything in which becomes another distraction from what I’m here to do at this time in my life. I can’t remake the less-than-perfect-past. I’d like to set a strong boundary with that! Try as I might, it’s not re-makeable. “Have I learned from it?” is the only question worth asking. Can I move forward now?

Morning Pages

Turning towards this singular day is where the power lies. The morning pages is an exercise that author Julia Cameron named. I’ve mentioned this process in earlier blogs. It’s a sort of “blurting” on the blank page. This helps to clear the stage of yesterday’s stuff and make room for what’s here and now. I don’t always pause in the morning to write the morning pages. I find that when I do, it’s helpful…like removing a clog from a stopped up drain, things flow better.

Apart from pausing to write the morning pages, I do recommend pauses throughout the day. We get on our personal treadmill, driven by our to-to-list. It can be merciless! That’s when I realize I’m enjoying life less. I choose pausing as a practice, a conscious choice to stop and notice how I’m feeling, where I’m at, who I’m with, what I’m doing in this moment. Yes, even and especially our mundane tasks invite us to pause. As I write this, I notice the pen moving across the page–yes, I write with a pen on paper versus tapping at my computer keyboard (that comes later). I watch these words flow across this lined page. I look up and out the sliding glass door and beyond the deck to the Eddies capped with snow. A pause to notice reminds me what is right with the world.

Taking a Risk

“Risk nothing and you risk everything.”

Erica Jong

I came upon this piece of writing from a Creative Writing class that I took a few years ago. It posed the question, “What are you risking?”
“What would life be like if you risked doing those things you have put off doing, but deeply desire to experience?”

With the advent of Covid 19, so much has changed. These days, we risk by going into a market to buy our groceries. This was written in 2009 when my parents were in a care home together.

The word “risk” has been at the forefront of my mind of late. I watch my parents at their present stage of life–ages 89 and 92. What’s done is done for them with little chance of autonomous change. The next risk they will take is their leap into the hereafter. I’m here now and I’ve felt overly cautious, limited and stuck for awhile. I feel a dissatisfaction which ranges from vague to imperative. I’m not sure what the risk is that I need to take. I do know that it’s time for a shift. Is it a stronger commitment to writing and getting published? Perhaps–why not devote one year to that effort and see where it goes?

I think that if I began taking risks, I might feel more self-fulfilled. Happier, less frustrated. Risk involves a certain daring. I’m a Leo, a fire sign, and this has been somewhat dormant in me. It’d be nice to allow the part of me that loves center stage, fun, playfulness to express herself. I’d travel some and try myself out in new situations. I’d speak my mind more. Be ridiculous at times. Ask the questions that I’m curious about of my diminishing parents. Not hold back affection.

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As life goes, I didn’t publish a book or devote a year to writing. My parents continued to decline over the next two years and they required a lot of attention from the family. They died six months apart. Their departure was followed by a period of grief. I documented their final years. I rarely ever stop writing. Most of the time, writing is within my comfort zone. Except that I did initiate writing this blog about three years ago and that has felt risky at times. I took a big risk when I interviewed a man, over a period of three months, about the male perspective in relation to women. Formerly, he had been an abusive male. I also signed up for a theater group and wrote several scripts which they performed. That was definitely outside of my comfort zone. In 2014, I started drawing and painting. This was something I never believed I could do! So I guess I could call that a risk. Since then, I’ve had two art exhibits and yes, I risked and leapt on both occasions. With the first one, I was so nervous that I got laryngitis and couldn’t speak to the visitors to the exhibit (yet, I showed up!).

Today, I have redefined what risk means to me personally and how it applies to what I desire. If my desire is to be a whole person and live from that wholeness, then what is the risk involved to live this way? I think it involves confronting fears and stuck places as they arise. I also think it’s about recognizing that I have taken many risks over the course of my life and I only recognize them as such in retrospect. Should I chart them on a piece of paper to remind myself, to honor that I don’t always hide under a rock? Covid time hasn’t supported some of the things I’d like to explore.

Recently, I was listening to an interview on Sounds True with author, James Hollis. He was ninety years old at the time of this interview and he passed away shortly thereafter. The thing he said that struck me was that each stage of life has its task. That’s up to you and me to figure out–what is the task for me at this stage and within the circumstances of my life? And once you have named it, take the risk and pursue it. I think that’s good advice.

In Covid time and at the stage of life you are in, what does taking a risk look like to you?

To the Places I’ve Never Been

Clutter has a way of reproducing itself it seems. Today, I ventured into the garage to continue clearing out things that I no longer need or want. I chose one plastic bin and brought it into the house. It is the bin with maps of places that I’d like to go and places where I’ve been. And it’s more than that, isn’t it. There is nostalgia for places that are no longer there–cafes, restaurants, motels, shops, etc.–the many places that were closed permanently due to the Covid virus. There is the remembrance of people I encountered along the way. There are memories of trips I took with someone, although mostly I explored alone.

I decided to make a stack of maps of places that I’d like to go. Bucket list items? There were a few stray papers that I had no trouble tossing. Then, there were the maps of places that I probably won’t visit. A rather big stack…the discarded dream trips. I’m going to package them and leave them on the newspaper stand outside of the post office. Someone is going to find them useful. I suppose I could wait and see if any of my friends might want some of them. No, at the end of the day, I want to feel like I let something go.

Within this bin, there is a surprise or two. I find a letter from an old acquaintance. It is wrapped around a pencil eraser, an emery board and artist’s blending stumps. This was given to me years before I seriously began making art. Reading the letter, I am brought back to a moment in time that I barely remember. His letter begins “Thank you for a delightful lunch in McCloud.” Apparently, I went out to lunch with this man, a gentle soul, sweet and tender. He was an enthusiastic student of life. If I remember correctly, he studied the Bhagavad Gita or some very intense and lengthy text. He delved into the deeper meanings of things and he was joyful. His name was Michael.

I had also tucked in a book published in 1999 “the Y2K Survival Guide and Cookbook,” because we wondered if 2000 was the end of the world (as we knew it)… I’m going to keep it, because, well, what do I know of the future. I found an ad for Stewart Mineral Springs. This was one of the places I relished visiting when I moved to Mt. Shasta. It was without a doubt one of heaven’s gifts to the earth. My sister, Kathryn, visited Stewart’s Springs years before I moved here. She said she felt like the Goddess herself (she was a Goddess). Draped in a flowing white sheet, descending into the Parks Creek pool, she felt transformed. Years later, I followed suit and dipped into the icy pool. It was truly a baptism of sorts surrounded by the abundant nature of this sacred site. It is now privately owned and inaccessible. A loss to the community and others.

And then there’s the article I saved on Blazing Gendered Trails, written in 1996 about groups of women gathering in the rustic outdoors to get in touch with nature…and themselves. Also, a newspaper clipping on Staying in Paris for under $90 by choosing your lodging in a less posh arrondissement. There is a whole newspaper section devoted to a Pilgrimage to the Island of Women, Isla Mujeres, a village off the Yucatan Coast. Waiting in line somewhere, I met a woman and we got to talking. By the time we reached the head of the line, she had written down her contact information and invited me to her retreat place, Gypsy’s by the Sea in Todos Santos…I wonder if she’s still there. Sifting through these articles, I am transported. Imagination is a great vehicle sometimes.

At the bottom of the bin, there is a message to me written in bold red letters:
JUST…
HAVE FUN
LAUGH
LEARN
BE YOURSELF
RELAX
TRUST GOD

…AND YOU’LL HAVE A GREAT TIME!

That sounds like good advice on living life.

If I really wanted you to know me…

Somewhere in my writing career, I came across this phrase. It’s one of those great opening lines to get you started writing. And, it begs that you be totally honest. So I’ll start.

If I really wanted you to know me, I would tell you the story about my shopping list. When I go south to Redding or north to Ashland from Mt. Shasta, I design a detailed shopping list. It’s almost like a map. There is an order to the places I’m going to shop and where they are in relationship to each other so I don’t double-back. No wasted time, energy or fuel. Today, it’s Interstate 5 South to Redding. I exit at Lake Boulevard and the first stop is Michael’s, off of Hilltop . I purchase a paint brush and fluid white acrylic paint. Check! Then the next stop is Bed n’Bath to return the shower curtain–it was too white and perfect and easily soiled. Check! I walk down a few aisles to see what’s new.
Today’s list is long so I best be going.

Back to the car, buckle up. Then, “OH NO!, where’s my list?!?!”
Two stops and somehow I’ve lost my list! I sit in my car a few minutes to regroup. I check all of my pockets, the floor of the car, my purse, outside of the car. Nada. I try to mentally refabricate my list. I go back into Bed n’Bath and ask the cashier if anyone had turned in a shopping list. No, they haven’t. I wander up and down the aisles that I had traversed–nothing. I return to the car, depressed, demolished (drama queen style).
“I should have stayed home today and dealt with this stifling grief.”
“Yes, I’m in Grief!” I remind the steering wheel.

I pull the car out of the space and then suddenly pull into another parking place. There is something that is propelling me to go back into the store. I rifle through the garbage behind the checkout counter, trying to be inconspicuous. I had made a return earlier, maybe my list was in the bag with the return. No.

I see a tall, thin man, an employee. I get the sense that I’m supposed to ask him about my list. I was running on raw intuition at this point. As I approach, he’s intercepted by a grandmother and her teenage granddaughter. They need his help to retrieve a carpet off of a high shelf. I follow them across the store, a respectful distance behind. After he’s helped them, I approach him. “I’ve lost my shopping list, I tell him. I’m wondering if anyone turned it in to you.”

“No,” he says almost apologetically.

Then, miraculously, the grandmother turns to me. “I found your list,” she said. “It looked too precious to throw away. I gave it to a tall saleswoman.”

“That would be Shoshana,” the tall thin salesman says.

He pages her. She comes out saying “I put it down somewhere. I’m not sure where I put it.”

Despondently, I walk towards the exit. Less than a minute later, the tall thin salesman is flagging me down with my list in his hand.

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So now you know a few things about me from this little story.
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If you really wanted me to know you, what story would you tell?

Dreams

Do you dream? Do you remember your dreams? There seem to be periods of my life when I dream in technicolor and I remember these vivid dreams or parts of them. I write them down and then I ask for meaning. I don’t leaf through books of dream symbols because I think that dreams are more personal than a book with specific definitions of symbols. I peer into what it might mean to me specifically. I try to define the metaphors within the dream for myself. I sit with it and revisit the dream over the course of a day or two. Something seems to open as I inquire and what I need to know surfaces for me.

Do I take it seriously? Do I really think that it’s my subconscious giving me a message? Is there meaning in my dreams for me to investigate? I think that there are different types of dreams. Sometimes, I have a dream that seems like a Fellini film. It appears to be all-inclusive and going in many different directions. It’s impossible to find meaning in such a dream. I look at this type of dream as being integrative–perhaps my life has been too busy, too full of stimuli and I’m on overwhelm. This type of dream is like a tumbler, shaking the loose parts out and letting them fall wherever they may land. No need for analysis.

In other dreams, there is something more specific that seems to be needing attention. So the dream brings it to my awareness when I remember the dream. Even when I don’t remember the dream in its entirety, I think that it serves an integrative purpose.

Here’s a dream that I recorded.

I dreamt that I was trying to read a poem aloud in class, but couldn’t find the one I wanted to read. When I did find it, the words changed to images–like colorful pictures of flowers, suns, fish, moons, more flowers. I read them to myself wondering if I read them aloud with feeling, would the class get the meaning? I found a children’s book of verse and thought about reading one of those. Although it was for children, it seemed that the meaning was advanced. Meanwhile, the class put on a play and danced while I searched for a poem to read.

My interpretation:
I interpret this dream to mean that the written word is less important for me at this time. Images–flowers, moon and stars speak louder–the call of wild nature or the cosmos. I think that I’m supposed to look and see beauty without having to evaluate it all with my mind. There might be a message for me in children’s verse–that there is depth within what appears to be less complex! Also, in my search for the words–rhyme or reason–the poem, I am missing the play of life, the dance, ever-unfolding life! At that time, I was thinking of returning to school but it seemed that traditional ways of learning weren’t right for me.

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So, do you dream? Do you remember your dreams? Do you record them? Do you come up with a meaning? I’d really be curious to know.

The Moon

Being a woman who seeks or quests, I wonder about many things as I go through this life. This year, I’m following a process with the moon. The Moon is My Calendar with April McMurtry is a study of the monthly journey of the moon across the sky and the influence it has on one’s life. It emphasizes a woman’s cycles as she embraces the cycles of the moon. Throughout history, humans have invented various calendars. The moon as a calendar was used long before the Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar system. I am not going to chart the history of the various calendars that societies have created. What I am wondering about is my own relationship with the moon.

I remember, years ago, looking at the moon on one of those rare clear evenings in San Francisco. I was missing my sister who had moved to Hawaii. I remember thinking that “we all share the same moon.” With that realization, I felt a connection to her through seeing the same moon.

In 1995, I had a some big challenges and a moon fascination it seems. In recounting a journal passage:

If the moon could talk to me, what would she say?
“I love you” would be her first words. ” My wisdom is your wisdom. I dwell within you as the light even in the midst of the dark. I will never fail you. No need to fear. I am constant as the sea. We work together harmoniously. There is a good and true purpose for you, for me. I am a reminder that all is right. Don’t look at the smallness; see the vastness, the bigger picture–it’s all around you and within. Within of itself is too narrow–consider the whole, be inclusive. Cultivate an awareness of me–study me; work with me; play with me. Then observe us together as a team. Let me be your light through all of the dark nights. Remember even when brother sun shines, I’m with you. Even then. Rest now.

1995 Journal

I must have needed her, the qualities of the moon then. Her mystery, her darkness and her illumination. Her retreat and her full expression. I must need her again today. The dreamy state that she creates as she journeys through her cycles. And yet, the grounded quality as I unite with her in her waxing and waning. In our culture, we are steeped in artificial stimulus–bright lights, big cities, eternal television and media influences. There is the consumer mindset–I need more to be happy. The moon helps one to see what is necessary in the present time. She returns us to the cycles of initiation, gestation, fruition; finally, retreat and diminishment. Then we begin again and with each new cycle there is the opportunity to deepen our connections to ourselves and all that is.

As I write this blog, the moon is a waxing quarter moon in the sign of Taurus. As the door opens wider for creativity, we find that the moon is exalted in Taurus. “Astrologers describe the Moon as “exalted” in Taurus, which means the qualities of fecundity, nurturing, sustenance and fertility are most easily expressed.” In my life, I see fecundity as many new ideas coming my way…and the ability to nurture some of them into being while caring for myself. Isn’t that most important for any one of us? We care deeply for ourselves so that we can birth, sustain and share our gifts as we move more fully into the wholeness of our being.

Moon blessings to you.

Put the Kettle On

This snowy morning, I rise and one of the first things that I do is to put the kettle on. I had the fleeting thought that people throughout time and in present time likely do the same thing. Whether it’s placed on an electric or gas burner, on a campfire, on a woodstove or whichever, I’m sharing a tradition that people have done ever since the discovery of fire!

“Honey, put the kettle on.” Sometimes that translates to a coffee maker or an electric teapot. However, it signifies a ritual that we share and understand cross-culturally and around the globe. It’s a unifying ritual.

In the morning, this morning, I take my cup of tea and return to bed, placing the teacup on the nightstand beside the bed. I place my notepad on the pillow on my lap. I take a smooth writing gel pen and I write. I write to clear a space. I write freely anything that comes to mind, the pen to the page. Expressing something in this way moves stuck energy. It doesn’t involve a thought process. This and my morning cup of tea are helpful and healthy morning rituals.

Any feelings that rise, I give them recognition as Rumi suggests in one of his poems, The Guest House.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
****
This morning, I feel a low-grade anger and wonder if anyone else wakes up with this feeling. I don’t want to analyze it, only recognize that it’s there. Gently. With my pen, I catch the thread of feelings, the inner unrest and pen them to this paper. The paper has become the container over the years for that which puzzles, troubles or tantalizes me. The paper–the scads of journals collected over the years, my personal texts–the sacred texts that chronicle this woman’s inner and outer pilgrimage. There is a certain irony…I want to write a book. These cumbersome and unwieldy journals tell my story. It has been harrowing, wending, winding, convoluted, gone forwards, backwards and sideways, inward, outward and upside down.

My confidantes, these journals when none others can be so present and non-judging. Gratitude for writing, for the journal and for today.
So, that is sometimes the way I begin my day. I do love beginnings.

I wished the mailman a Happy New Year yesterday.
He said “We’ll see.”
I said “I guess that we will.”
He answered: “Let’s see what unfolds.”
I agreed…”and then flow with it.”

So happy new year to my readers. May your new year unfold in a loving way. May you find the rituals that support your being. And may we discover more unifying rituals across the earth.

Panoply

Sometimes I hear a word and I put it in a holding place if I don’t look it up immediately. Panoply was one of those words. I liked the sound of it…how it looks and yet I had no idea what it meant. If I were to conjecture a meaning I might say it’s an abbreviated way of saying piano play perhaps? There are many words that have become archaic…we hardly ever hear them and they go to the ancient graveyard for rarely used words. I had a boyfriend once who used archaic words regularly. He had been an early reader. Both of his parents were deaf. He got his amazing vocabulary from the classics and other books that he encountered at an early age. And, sadly, most people wouldn’t have an understanding for some of what he was saying.

Panoply: pa-ne-plea/noun/Greek panoplia, fr. pan-+hopla arms, armor, pl. of hoplon tool, weapon–more at Hoplite. (1632) 1. a: a full suit of armor b: ceremonial attire 2. something forming a protective covering 3. a: magnificent or impressive array (the full-of a military funeral) b: a display of all appropriate appurtenances (has the – of science fiction…but it is not true science fiction–Isaac Asimov)

Pan…Greek from pan, neut of pant-, pas all, every; akin to Toch B pont-all) 1. all: completely (panchromatic) 2a: Involving all of a specified group b: advocating or involving the union of a specified group 3: whole: general.

Hoplite: A heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece.

Merriam-Webster

How many of us remember, if we were even taught, how to translate a dictionary definition? Reading the above definition, there are parts I can relate to and other parts that I really don’t understand the reference. My father was a wordsmith–he loved looking up words in one of those huge dictionaries that was placed upon a wooden lectern-like stand, accessible and for quick reference…though not as quick as Google. He loved thumbing through the dictionary pages to find the word of choice and then to study the etymology of that word. The definition of etymology being “the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.” He believed that a deep understanding of a word was a clue to a deeper meaning to whatever he was reading. An understanding of a word’s origin could tell him so much more than what the author of the book might have intended. It could also take him on a vicarious journey as to where that word had traveled from originally.

Do we take words for granted? If we are avid readers, and especially women, we shouldn’t take words or literacy for granted. And, if we are women who write, we should have a devout relationship to words. There was a time, not so distant, when women were not allowed to learn how to read or write. A literate woman was an exception. It’s hard for me to comprehend this. If it wasn’t for me being able to read and write, would I find another way to express the feelings and thoughts that well up in me begging to be scripted? My answer to that question would be “yes.” However, what I expressed through art, embroidery, sewing, quilting, tatting and other womanly arts might not be so translatable by the highly lauded logical mind. It wouldn’t be so credited in the male-oriented versions of history.

Honestly, in my life, when I get caught in a circular pattern of words and thoughts, I toss the mighty pen aside and look for another way to express what is inside of me. I look for an escape route from the tyranny of thoughts that go nowhere! There are countless ways to quiet the mind–knitting, quilting, gardening, drawing, painting, etc. Staring out of a window on a snowy day in the mountains, like today–there are no words…

Leaving the Past Behind

Do we ever really do this–leave the past behind?
If the past is what formed us, then it likely lives on inside of us. We can never really leave it behind. However, we can have integration and a certain resolution with it. Befriend it perhaps.

Happy New Year…

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And days of auld lang syne?”

Robert Burns

What is your relationship to the past?

Getting quiet is a way of integration and healing, I find.

I am a writer…I journaled for over forty years. As I leaf through those journals today, I’m returned to a time and place and a “self” who isn’t here in present time. I visit my younger self at various stages of my life through my journals. Is that what I want to spend the remaining years of my life doing? Revisiting what has been a mostly challenging past? Have I learned anything from it? Is this returning to and writing about it in present time going to enhance my life today? Does anyone else really want to read about my once-upon-a-time life?

Can I make something new out of this sow’s ear of the past? I hope so!

Realizing that I have less life ahead of me than behind me, what do I want this next round of life to be about? What do I want to bring to it? What do I hope to gain from it? What do I have to offer to others? These are some of the questions I’m asking these days.

There is a phrase, ‘taking stock.’ Basically, to me that means…generally looking at how I got to where I am today–taking an overview, if you like. Then, the next step is to get firmly grounded in the present time and place and age that I am. And from this steadfast position, I can effectively decide and choose what is serving my evolution and forward movement.

We are cyclical or seasonal beings if you like. When we are in touch with the rhythms and cycles of the earth, we can also be in touch on a deeper level with our own. For they are ever turning, ever changing, in motion. There is an optimism when connecting to nature in this way–in connecting with our own rhythmic response to nature’s cycles. Noting this, there is always an opportunity to deepen and evolve.

The new year marks a time of new beginnings. I don’t make resolutions anymore. I do align with new practices. I’m appreciating the cycles of the moon these days. The new moon is tomorrow. It’s a time for initiating something new or at least being open to a new idea and taking a step in that direction. Who doesn’t like the idea of making a fresh start?

I’m hoping for you, my readers the kind of year that heals your wounds and gently opens your heart to the wonder of being yourself on the earth at this moment in time. And the recognition that everyone else desires this healing and opening too. Blessed be.

Seal is too a Power Animal!

The seal as a power animal is both a land animal and a sea animal, symbolizing adaptability to the water and earth elements. Seal Energy taps into the intuitive while helping you to stay grounded. Some of the other qualities that it represents are playfulness, protection, imagination, strength, good luck, dreams and movement.

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My brother said that this seal looks “somber.” He added “…but who wouldn’t be with one’s habitat being destroyed and population dwindling.”

I told him that if he could see her in person he might think that she embodies power.

“The canvas is 24-inchesx24-inches,” I replied

He texted back, “Yes, I might have misspoken by using the word somber–maybe defiant (which could imply power) would be a better adjective.”

I texted back: “Interesting. I posted the photo on my artist page on Facebook. A friend wrote back: “He is so cute. He looks like he came out of a child’s story book. Beautifully done.”

I guess it is in how one sees it.

I didn’t plan to paint a seal. I didn’t plan to paint an animal. I mostly paint intuitively. I painted what emerged from the canvas and today, it is this seal.

I grew up by the ocean in San Francisco, CA. There was a big rock that we called Seal Rock because that’s where the seals loitered. There was a coin-operated tower viewer through which we could watch the seals as they clambered over the rock, as the waves dashed the rock, as the fog drifted in over the rock and hid it all from our sight.

According to Wikipedia

Seal Rock (or Seal Rocks) is a group of small rock formation islands in the Lands End area of the Outer Richmond District in western San Francisco, California. They are located just offshore in the Pacific Ocean, at the north end of the Ocean Beach, near the Cliff House and Sutro Baths ruins.”

As I type these words from Wikipedia, a nostalgia washes over me like a soft salty ocean wave. And then drifts across the sand into ocean’s memory. I knew these places and like the seals we grew up beside, we took them for granted. It’s often in memory that things take on a lovely patina and sometimes we linger there over the words and the images that they conjure. Lands End, Sutro Baths, Cliff House, Ocean Beach, Seal Rock–all in my backyard as we lived four blocks from Ocean Beach and The Great Highway that ran the length of the beach from the Sunset through the Richmond District. We rarely could see sunsets in the Sunset District. The fog was so thick! The foghorns played our nightly and daily lullaby.

We weren’t allowed to go to the beach on our own. As I got older, I got permission to take my younger siblings there. We walked from Moraga Street, crossed Lawton, Kirkham, then Judah where the streetcars ran. We turned down the street from 44th Avenue to 48th Avenue. At Judah and 48th, there was a tunnel which ran under the Great Highway. We ran through the tunnel, screaming, our voices echoing. The tunnel smelled of urine and the ocean. We probably ran and screamed to chase off any unsavory characters who might be lurking nearby. And then, like a light at the end of life’s tunnel, there was the ocean big, bold and vast. We were so small beside her.

When I was a young mom, I used to take my daughters to Ocean Beach and we’d sit on a cement wall gazing out to sea having our hot chocolate in thermoses with doughnuts. We would sit beside the mesmerizing ocean. The constancy of the waves, the intrusion of the foghorns, the taste of salt on our lips mixing with the bittersweet chocolate. People of all ages and sizes bundled against the cold, running, walking their dogs, walking with a companion or alone. I never really felt alone when I walked solo beside the ocean. I considered the ocean like a mother to me. Familiar and all-embracing.

Memories…a friend is writing her memoir. Mine would be wrapped in sea salt, waves, barking seals, my siblings, fog, and yearning.

This painting of a seal has taken me back in time and conjured up these memories.