Sunday, July 19, 2009

Of Spider Webs & Oceans

July 18, 2009 -- 5 p.m.

I am sitting here in the sun rocking slowly back and forth in the swinging lawn chair.  Yesterday around this time I sat here, too.  Only yesterday, the spider web near my left elbow was much bigger.  I had to be careful not to lean into the web without thinking, and become cocooned in its strands.

Last night I dreamed one of those dreams that kept repeating itself each time I woke and slept again.  In the dream, I was lying in bed in the Rose Room, the same room where we are staying at this bed and breakfast in Pescadero.  But in the dream, a long gossamer spider web hung down from the ceiling past the side of the bed where I lay.    The strands were delicate, complex, and sticky.  I was trying not lean  into it. In the dream, it never occurred to me to wonder why the owners had not cleaned the web from the room.  The web was simply a natural part of the house, and I was trying to avoid leaning into it.

When I finally got up this  morning,  it was because I was tired of dreaming of avoiding the spider web, over and over again.   Once I was fully awake, I realized the web was not beside the bed, but outside on the swing. Now I sit on the swing again in the bright sunlight, sliding back and forth over the tiny patch of lawn, listening to the squeals of a child across the creek.  I am no longer concerned about the web.  It seems smaller.  It no longer reaches out to pull at me.

To my right I see the fog sifting in past the small stand of forest, misting across the field of red and green grasses. The little garden windmill turns slowly in the breeze.  The branches of the pine trees alongside the creek bob up and down as if shaking hands, or telling a silent sign language story.   Three Easter lily plants, bold in their pink frills, reach up from the mossy hillock towards the sun, like glamour girls.  The white daisies with their bright yellow hearts smile into the light like Walt Disney flowers getting ready to dance. 

The swing I sit on is well weathered wood, grey and gnarled. I noticed one slat has broken.   I wonder what this garden is like when the tourists are gone -- what is it like to be in a small seaside town when all the tourists are gone? The sense of community and camaraderie, is it good? 

The children shriek from across the way, where they play in the church parking lot. They yell, they laugh, these unseen little phantoms, like noisy ghosts screened from my sight by the pine trees and creekside bushes.  Imagine if this were actually a ghost town and all the houses were deserted.... and in the quiet of the late afternoon sun, one could hear the town as it once was... 

Gophers seem to love the coast.  The B & B owner complained of them.  So did the woman at the small ranch we toured this afternoon. Someone asked her if they trapped the gophers live.  She answered,  "No, there are so many of them. If we did that we would always be having to drive them off somewhere. We don't have enough manpower to do that."

Imagine... One day a whole new race of beings might arrive on this planet.  They may put out traps for the humans who were here first and say, "There are so many of them. We can't afford the time to relocate them."

Think back to the Native Americans who were here first, and how many were killed from small  pox blankets or Army guns. Did people say the same thing then, "There are too many of them to relocate." 

Think of the fish in the sea. Think of the garbage in the sea, which in certain areas is reported to be the size of large continents, floating, poisoning the sealife and the water. 

"Oh, we relocated the garbage to the ocean.  We couldn't kill it because it was never alive. But now, alas, it has taken on a life of its own..."

Think of what the whales and dolphins would say of our habits if they could put their impressions into thought streams we might understand... Think of it...  Whole worlds of beingness beyond our ken of understanding...

I sit here in the garden swing rocking gently in the breeze.  The late day sun fades.  Shimmers of grey fog begin to gauze over the forest.  I hear but do not see birds chirping in the distant field. I hear one of the children playing in the church lot say, "You have to be careful."

Another says, "Put your feet --"


"Put your feet on top of me! Put your feet --"


I wince.  I cannot say, "Oh, to be a child again." 

Haven't we been children long enough?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Their Bodies Healed and Souls Complete


A few months ago, I saw two squirrels playing tag round a palm tree in a Calistoga yard where I was taking a weekend writing workshop.  Round and round, up-and-down, they went. I remembered the squirrels who lived in my Minneapolis yard some years ago. The four squirrels played tag around the base of the giant oak tree every day. I would watch them from the kitchen window, marveling at their playfulness.

I didn’t realize what a blessing their play was until one early morning when I saw only three of them.  I went outside and looked around. The squirrels scampered up the tree. I glanced at the fence to the left and the fence to the rear. I glanced at the alley to the right. No fourth squirrel.  I went back into the house and out the front door.   Slowly I walked over the front lawn.  As I did so, I began to glimpse a small bundle in the street.

Dreading what I might find, I kept walking… until I reached the fourth squirrel, its body limp at the edge of the street. Was this a boy or a girl squirrel? I didn’t know.   West 35th Street was often a busy street, two lanes in each direction with cars coming and going to the freeway entrance two blocks away.  How could some careless driver have failed to see the scampering squirrel? Did it happen in the dark?

I got a piece of newspaper and carefully carried the squirrel’s body to the backyard.  I thought perhaps the three other squirrels didn’t know their friend was gone.  How foolish I was!  I placed the squirrel’s body near the base of the tree. There it lay for a few hours.  The squirrels didn’t play anywhere near their friend’s body. They did not come up to sniff. They stayed out of sight.  Of course they knew.

Later I picked up the squirrel’s stiffening form and put it in a bag and placed it gingerly in the trashcan. The next morning, I went to the trashcan and lifted the lid and looked inside, hoping the squirrel might somehow be alive again.

Where did this sudden impulse come from? I do not know.

But I remember the little lizards which played in my Redwood City backyard after I moved from Minneapolis. One evening as the sun began to set, I kept gardening, digging with my trowel into the earth by the fence, loosening it for new plants to come. Little did I suspect what was to come.

Something flashed by. My trowel went down on automatic dig. I recoiled in shock – there lay the body of a lizard on one side of the trowel and the head on the other side. I had been told that lizards in the yard were a special blessing. Now there lay a lizard beheaded by me. I took some loose leaves and sprinkled them over the lizard.

In the morning I went out to peek. Would the head be reunited with the body again?  Would the spirit have returned to the wanderer? No.   All was still – except for the ants busy disposing of the remains.

What place did I once live where those who have left could quickly return and be reborn, their bodies healed and Souls complete?

I do not know. But I know it was not this place where I now live. I had done the same thing to the lizard as the driver had done to the squirrel. I never gardened at twilight again.