Today I have been trying to capture our one-hundred-plus-year-old tree with my two-year-old camera. I can't do it. And I realize as I try one angle and another, one frame and another, it isn't the camera's fault.
The tree was here long before we were here, long before this house was built, and there are so many dreams and hopes caught in its branches and feeding those green, green leaves, that no one lens, no matter how technologically adept, can catch it.
It's February 1973 and we have been in our new-old house in the San Fernando Valley for two and a half months. I don't know it yet, but I am pregnant with our first child. I am a transplant from the Westside of Los Angeles, and the valley is a little rural, a little unfamiliar compared to the more cosmopolitan (if you could call it that in 1973) Westwood, Hollywood, and Santa Monica of my previous world.
I still work at UCLA, so every weekday I make a roundtrip over the Sepulveda pass or the 405 freeway.
Whenever I see old family photographs, they often look as if the whole gestalt of that moment were peaceful, tranquil. If by some magic you could go back there now, maybe you could wander out of the frame and enjoy the picnic, the party, the holiday, that was the occasion for the photo. People seem to be enjoying themselves because after all they are all smiling, right? You don't get what went on before the moment caught on film, or after. All you have is a person with a smile, or maybe a funny face.
I recently took a road trip to Sacramento, driving alone up the I-5. This is a trip I made many, many times when I was working, and although the I-5 has never been known as a picturesque drive, I always loved it. The California landscape is never boring to me. The mountains are lovely, even sensuous with their undulating contours and changing colors. Wild radish and mustard, lush California lilacs, line the roadside.
Cleaning up a fairy garden means that first you have to find all the fairies and give them a bath. Then it may be necessary to refresh a little paint here and there, no matter how hard they try to resist. And if they have left their Winter Solstice decorations up, you must retrieve those, clean them up, and find safe storage so that they can be used again during the appropriate season. There is always a question of how the furnishings have been rearranged, as well.
This picture breaks my heart.
Government business in government buildings grinds slow, inching along while endless conversations and copy machines murmur and people are restless in folding chairs, on dirty seats stained with coffee or soda or maybe even body fluids. Rehearsing what you will say, not paying much attention except to track your turn, you wait. If you want to be heard, you wait.
There is a particular longing, ever-present, and unnamed
permeating into areas ordinarily inaccessible if circumscribed by specifics.
How, then, can it be a particular longing?
But it is something -- something unclaimed, wandering loose, or sitting forlornly, like lost luggage.
Driving North, 1959
What is your Christmas dream? Every year I start spinning holiday fantasies long before Thanksgiving. I find myself rummaging around in early Christmas memories and building a chain that links to the present.
The things we are told about ourselves and our family history shape who we are.
The act of caring for plants, digging in the dirt, has also become a journey into my past. Pulling a weed here, trimming a dead branch or clipping spent blossoms, I am making a more orderly, accessible garden. And while I am doing all of that, in my head I am weeding and trimming old conversations, events, trying to make sense out of what could have been said or not said, what could have been done differently, what would have fit the place, the occasion, better.
Today the news is full of predictions. The end of natural food sources, the end of water supplies, the grim fact of more global warming than previously predicted, the unsolvable conflicts in the Middle East, the immorality of the corporate world. So my choice is not to focus on any of those particulars but to get right down to the business of offering my experience with cooking artichokes. How mundane. But I think you will see my point as you read along.
Some people slip easily into new ways of being. I am not one of them. It takes me some time to find out where I fit. I am cautious. Those critical voices in my head crank up the volume when I am on the edge of a new thing. Sometimes those voices are so loud that I am frozen, immobilized by fear. Paralysis sets in when whatever I am about to do, to try, to undertake must answer to all of those interior nay-sayers.