Sunday, October 23, 2011

Teardrop Trailer - or Vacation in a Can

Vacation does something to you; rearranges your brain molecules, restructures your thought-habits. After a week out of the office and camping out by the beach,  I'm trying to ease back into town-life as slow as I can.  Yes, laziness is a by-product of vacations. 

We read bunches and bunches - first of all, because we could and second of all, because it rained the first day and night. What goddess prompted me to rent, in August, a Teardrop Trailer for our October vacation?  "Rain, schmain " we said, warm and snug in our little bug. 

The Teardrop trailer, named The Chili Pepper, a.k.a. our savior
(Rented ours from Vacations in a Can in Penngrove, CA. Great design, excellent craftsmanship; you won't be disappointed)

We camped at Bodega Dunes State Campground, one of our favorites go-to spots along the Sonoma Coast.  The campground is set back from the Pacific ocean beach, hunkered behind long dunes; our campsite was bordered a thick stand of eucalyptus and a creaky hallway of old and dignified cypress, planted as windbreaks by farmers long ago. It's beautiful even in the rain, and especially beautiful from the cozy-warm hella-cute super-fab little tag-along.
Eucalyptus in the mist
A faint path wends its way between
two rows of cypress
Our morning espresso cart - a bit soggy,
 but serviceable. Yay for canopies!
Reading nook extrodinaire! Note plenty of cubbies
for all your books, munchies, spare glasses, pens, notebooks.  
Serendipitously, we had tickets for the Picasso exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco for that unexpectedly rainy day - perfect timing, eh? The drive to SF from Bodega is about about an hour and a bit, but heck, we were on vacation, but what else did we have to do? And nothing much better than a museum on a rainy day, I say.

So, after a few doses of camp coffee - note the espresso pot on the propane stove, 'cause that's the (only) way we  roll, strong coffee, sraight up - we drove into P-town for breakfast, drove to SF for the exhibit (fabulous, of course - thanks, Stephanie!), drove back to camp and scurried into the Teardrop, visually provoked and culture-sated. And we still had plenty of time to read a bunch more before we went out for dinner at a seafood/Mexican place just down the road.

Still raining, before, during and after. Not a hard, sluicing rain, just relentless, thick and starting to get on our nerves. But, look, ma - no muddy tent, no soaked clothes, no damp sleeping bags on a cold mat or sagging air mattress - which, swear to Jumping Jupiter, starts to deflate from the moment you shove that little plug into the air vent.  Much as we loved camping, that was the main reason we'd given up on it: our grouchy backs just couldn't take it anymore.

The next morning, the rain was over. A full moon graced the skies that night and the rest of the week was sunny, breezy, just about perfect.  

We're so smitten with The Can, we're plotting ways to procure our own. Because between staying dry and sleeping on a real, very comfortable mattress, it feels like we can camp again. 


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Second Poem: Green Hills

Here's my second re-orient-the-brain dual-purpose poem,*

Green Hills
by Kay Ryan

Their green flanks
and swells are not
flesh in any sense
matching ours,
we tell ourselves.
Nor their green
breast nor their
green shoulder nor
the languor of their
rolling over.

If that isn't the perfect rendition of the hills of West Marin and Sonoma, I don't know what is.  Ryan captures our attention by telling us that the "green flanks and swells" really aren't body and flesh. And just when we are mentally contradicting her because yes, they do look like shoulders and thighs and the sway of reclining backs and hips, Ryan goes one step further and animates those green hills in that clever play on the rolling hills ... magnificent.

p.s.  occasionally they do roll - like when the earth quakes.

links to photographic evidence:

green hills 1

green hills 2

• see previous post

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dual Purpose Poems

Work has become its own beast lately, with a steep adjustment curve to new paradigms and programs.  In an attempt to cope, I've started to memorize a poem a day, hoping to divert the obsessive part of my mind from continually rolling down the grooves of irritation, which with repetition, will only become deeper, the negative reactions more entrenched, more intractable. I felt that if I could interrupt the process, I could block the high hits on the Stress-O-Meter and halt the accompanying rise in cortisol. Plus give myself something pleasantly literary to think about. And liven up my little grey cells.

So when I feel the anxiety rise, I resort to the poem, reciting it under my breath like a verbal amulet or a Spell for Protection.  It seems to be working; I don't feel so wound up in the morass of a SNAFU which is not of my making and which I can not change. Recalling the poem is sometimes all I need to regain a more tolerant and reflective state. Or at least get me though the next half hour without incident, embarrassment or name-calling. 

There have been some unintended (though welcome) consequences of this practice: getting this close to poetry and language is firing up my desire to be swimming in the deep end of writing and literature. (More on that later.)

Because I so love her work and because she is one hella tight poet, I've started with poems by Kay Ryan.  I'm enthralled with her imagery, rhythm, metaphors, the way her poems cinch right up at the end.  There is never any doubt that you've landed at the end of a Kay Ryan poem. Doesn't hurt that they are often short; my old gray brain just ain’t what it used to be. And oh, yeah, the poem-a-day quickly became a poem-a-week. 

So here’s the first poem, which has already stood me in good stead several times so far:

A Cat/A Future

A cat can draw
the blinds
behind her eyes
whenever she 
decides. Nothing
alters in the stare
itself but she's
not there. Likewise,
a future can occlude:
still sitting there, 
doing nothing rude. 

Such plain-song, everyday language -- except for the tight arrangement, the rhythms, the internal and sprung rhymes: blinds, behind; stare, there; eyes, decides; occludes, rude. And except for the word occludes, which captures our attention at once: it is the mystery door into meaning.  To occlude means to obstruct, shut off, block.  The future is occluded, hidden from us as if by blinds; we can’t really see it -- we can only imagine it. It sits there, merely one second, one day, one year away, but unknowable, blocked off from us until it happens.

And in another way, the future itself occludes: our tendency to plan for the future can sometimes prevent us from noticing the beauty of the moment, the realities of now.  We are so focused on the future, we become blind to the present.  We project our imagined future in front of us, as if on a screen, but a screen that hides the only known future that awaits us all: the inevitable, unknowable end of our tunnels. That future is definitely there - but not there, because we prefer to (or need to) ignore it.

By the end of this poem Ryan has layered meaning onto object; has melded the cat and the future, both “still sitting there/doing nothing rude.” Sweet!