Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Book at the Beach

A book at the beach.
The sound of children at play.
Lazy summer's end.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Ramp-up

AYSO and ortho.
New school clothes, shoes, and backpacks.
Fall is in the air.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Places of Honor

All of today's lectionary readings deal in some way with arrogance and humility, and the human tendency to take the best place at the table, so to speak. This is one of those things that I know in my heart but really need to be reminded of.... sometimes I get in "me-me-me" mode and don't even realize that I'm "taking the best place." Argh!

It's all upside-down.
When we take the best place at
the table, we may
be asked to move to the end.
The humble are exalted:
"Friend, move up higher."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

St. Augustine

From the "Saint of the Day" email I received today, a quote from St. Augustine's Confessions:

"Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

Libertine, bishop.

Sinner, saint. Emblem of the

human condition.

Friday, August 27, 2010


On most Friday mornings, David and I meet up with our good friend and trainer whose name is--wait for it!--Knute Keeling. (Doesn't he just sound like a guy who would kick your ass and laugh while kicking it? He's actually a really sweet guy, but he's also very, very tough and, truly, the best trainer ever.)

Like David and me, he descends from Viking stock and loves to devise new Viking-like ways to torture us into fitness. One of his favorite workouts to inflict on us is called the Berserker. It involves lots of sprinting up stairs, boxing, and push-ups, whilst shouting things like "Victory!" and "Valhalla!!!"

According to Wikipedia, Berserkers (or berserks) were Norse warriors who are reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word "berserk." So you get the picture. The potential hurl-factor is high. But every time I make it through the workout, I feel so good. Here's a poem in honor of Fridays with Knute:

Once we were Vikings
but now we're Californians
of a certain age
(not an old age, mind you) and
we fight the evil
hordes known as Time, Gravity,
and, let's face it: Fat.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Laughing Club

If you're walking through Heisler Park in Laguna Beach on any given morning, and you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the laughter-yoga club, gathered on the beach and doing their thing. I find it a little weird, but delightful. (Incidentally, the August 30 issue of The New Yorker has a profile of Madan Kataria, the originator and guru of the laughter-yoga movement. The accompanying illustration is pretty creepy--I can't explain it--but the article is interesting.)

The laughers gather,
throw their hands up and giggle
guffaw, hoo ha ha!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Night noises
startle me awake
from un-deep sleep.
I sit up quickly
and time rushes
at, around, over me.
I am swept up,
and hurtle past
days of hide-and-seek
in a musty Michigan basement,
of the sound of cicadas
and lawns being mowed.
Of parched hills and sprawling oaks,
of swim meets and high school crushes
and running on trails
under a blazing blue California sky.
Of fog blanketing a lost coast.
I grasp at these pictures
as if they were roots
growing along the banks of a fast-moving river
but my hands
and I am borne on
and on
and on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Online Traffic School II

Ok, ok. I've changed my tune:

Online traffic school
is the best thing since sliced bread.
My two points for that
speeding ticket? Erased, in
the comfort of my own home!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Online Traffic School

Basic speed law. Fog,
driving in. Parking on hills.
Failure to give right of way.
Ask me, I'm now an expert

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Brooks Street Classic

The Brooks Street Classic:
likely the only contest
in which you'll see your
kids, your accountant, your spouse,
your neighbors, and your pastor
compete for local glory.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's On!

A south swell arrives;
locals converge on Brooks Street.
Let the show begin!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Schuyler's home from camp!
Hugs, stories, revelations.
And piles of laundry.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two Girls in Paris

I just got to reconnect with an old friend, Monique Fayad, whom I met when we were both studying in Paris nearly twenty years ago. Back then she was Monique Ruia from Philadelphia, and when I saw her today, she was just as smart, lovely, and easy to be with as I remembered her to be. In fact, she still looks like she's about 20--which reminds me: I really need to stay out of the sun.

Monique is now married and lives near New York City with her husband and their two children. We got to have lunch today because she and her family are in LA on vacation. Driving home, I remembered a night that the two of us went out dancing and ended up at Les Bains Douches, formerly the site of a bathhouse (reportedly frequented by Marcel Proust, fyi!). If memory serves, at some point they filled the dance floor with soap bubbles....

Two girls in Paris,
out after dark. A swirl of
sangria and jazz.
A boƮte. Dancing in a cloud
of soap-bubble foam.
A long walk home. Sunrise in
the city of light.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cold Comfort

That August ocean
only looks inviting; it's
bone-chillingly cold.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Before Sleep

I lift my head from the pillow
and glimpse the almost-full moon
and its reflection on the ocean--
a broad, golden path to the horizon.
A red traffic light
at Cress Street and Pacific Coast Highway
turns green.
The streetlights and illuminated houses
blur together into a twinkling haze.
I close my eyes and sleep.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Today's meditation in "Listening to Your Life", by St. Fred, is about dreams. He writes:

No matter how prosaic, practical, and ploddingly unimaginative we may be, we have dreams like everybody else. All of us do. In them even the most down-to-earth and pedestrian of us leave earth behind and go flying, not walking, through the air like pelicans. Even the most respectable go strolling along crowded pavements naked as truth. Even the confirmed disbelievers in an afterlife hold converse with the dead just as the most dyed-in-the-wool debunkers of the supernatural have adventures to make Madame Blavatsky's hair stand on end.

I confess that I will have to Google Madam Blavatsky, as I don't know who she is. But I'm struck by Buechner's words about the capacity we have--even people who consider themselves incapable of creativity--to dream. He goes on to say that the fact that we have regular access to this other world suggests that our lives are more mysterious and less limited by space and time than we might think.

In my dreams I can
fly, run in slow motion and
converse with the dead.
Extra dimensions unfurl;
time and space expand.
Hopes and fears rush in.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I'm really scraping the bottom of the barrel for poetic inspiration here, but this bloke's vanity license plate, cocked at a jaunty angle, cracked me up for some reason. I couldn't see the driver, but I imagine him to be an Anglophile who wears tweed, smokes a pipe, and refers to himself in the third person. Of course I pointed it out to my son, who sensibly asked, "Who's Mister Uck?" I managed to snap a quick, blurry picture (sorry, but I was driving!), so you can see him for yourself.

Oh look, there he is!
It's Mister UK, Willem--
quick, take a picture!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oh San Onofre

One of my favorite books on my desk is a little paperback collection of vintage surfing graphics. Every so often I get it out and flip through images of old surf-themed record covers, movie and travel posters, and my favorites: Leroy Grannis photographs from the 1960s. I love this picture of Old Man's and Dogpatch taken in 1963. The thing I love about San O is that, if you squint so as to blur the lines of the late-model cars, it looks much the same as it did 50 years ago. I used to surf there all the time with my girlfriends, but haven't gone in quite some time. I miss it, but the multiple shark sightings are holding me back. I'm torn... I might just have to start going again and take my chances with "Fluffy."

Oh, San Onofre:

lazy waves, vintage boards and

vintage people too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Forgiveness, Not Permission II

Sweetheart, must you jump
out of a perfectly good
airplane, just for fun?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Dentist's Chair

sharp tools, whirring drill
I realize I'm sweating
the uneasy chair

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Forgiveness, Not Permission

Him, casually:
"Hi Mom, we're still at the lake,
and are you ok with me
cliff jumping?"

Me, not panicked,
exactly, but nervous:
"Well, where exactly are you,
and how high is the cliff?"
Can you tell how deep the water is?
Did Mrs. DeGroote say it was ok?"

Him, dismissively,
with junior-high-boy sang-froid:
"Mom, Mom, Mom--
I already jumped.
I'm fine. It was only, like, forty feet.
Babies were doing it."

"Ok then! Excellent!
Carry on. I'll see you a little later today."

"Bye, Mom. Love you!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Girl Power

Yesterday I watched my adorable nieces, Ava and Leah, and we spent part of the morning at Bluebird Park. I had asked Joel to leave the double stroller so I could push them down to the park and back. We had a great time--I gave the girls "underdog" pushes on the swings and spun them around on the various spinning play structures until we were all dizzy. We visited the famous Bluebird Park turtle. The only difficulty arose when I put them back in the stroller to go back up to my house. Have I mentioned that I live on a really steep hill?!

two little girls
one double stroller
Oriole Drive
a lung-torched, sweat-drenched
but happy

Monday, August 9, 2010

Empty House

Willem is gone for the weekend with a friend's family, Schuyler is at camp and David is away on a business trip. I'm so rarely home all alone that it feels strange. It's so quiet that I can hear myself breathe, and it's hard to fall asleep!

I hear coyotes
in the distance,
deer rustling in the back yard,
and the occasional creak or sigh
that escapes the walls of the house
as it settles.

This place is quiet--too quiet.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Camp Bus

What is it about
putting my kid on the bus
to summer camp that
makes me cry, even though my
kid is six-foot-two?

Saturday, August 7, 2010


My Saturday errands took way too long today. I know Laguna's retailers and restaurants need the business, so I don't want to complain, but it was an absolute zoo today and I spent a lot of time in the car. Aaargh!

Car-clogged PCH,
Crown Valley is just as bad.
Save me from summer!

Friday, August 6, 2010


I get these daily "Saint of the Day" emails from a Catholic organization, and they are often really interesting. Today's email was not on a particular saint, but on the story of Christ's transfiguration, which appears in all three Synoptic Gospels. Included was a quote from Aquinas, from which I have borrowed:

having displayed

his splendor and beauty

he now shapes and colors

those who are his

so that we might be


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Packing for Summer Camp

It's a beautiful thing
when one's son is still
young enough
to go to summer camp
but old enough
to pack his own bag
and write his own initials
in the toe of each sock
the waistband of each pair of boxer shorts
the label of each t-shirt

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Just In

Who knew that the River Styx, aside from being the mythical entrance to the underworld, contained poisonous, deadly bacteria? Found poem ripped from today's headlines:

Alexander the Great
may have been killed by river water,
not firewater

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Things Fall Apart

The thing about
home ownership
that they don't tell you
is that everything breaks
all the time
and then has to be fixed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Heisler Park Redux

I've said this before,
but Heisler Park, on a clear
sunny morning? Bliss.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Most Interesting Woman in the World

A few months ago, I happened upon an obituary in the Sunday New York Times for Peter O'Donnell, 90, creator of the comic strip action hero Modesty Blaise. His comics were published in the The London Evening Standard for almost 40 years and syndicated in other newspapers worldwide. I've never read any of O'Donnell's comics or subsequent novels featuring Modesty, but was so taken by the Times' graceful tribute to him and his fictional heroine that I saved it and read it to my family. I just found it on my desk again today and re-read it.

Long before "La Femme Nikita" (which I love, by the way), Trinity from "The Matrix," and Angelina Jolie in any of her roles, there was Modesty Blaise. As imagined by O'Donnell, she was what the Times' writer Bruce Weber calls "a distaff answer to James Bond"--a voluptuous, stylish brunette with a mysterious past; a war orphan who had profited from a life of crime before retiring very young and very rich, and subsequently deciding to use her powers for good.

O'Donnell, who served in the British army and lived a pretty interesting life himself, said that his wartime experience was the inspiration for the Modesty Blaise character. In 1942 he was stationed in Northern Iran where he encountered a young girl, barefoot, in a tattered dress, a refugee probably from somewhere in the Balkans. He gathered that she had been on her own for some time; she appeared to be resourceful and self-possessed--"her own person," as O'Donnell put it. He and his men put out some tins of food for the little girl, so she could get them without coming too close. Then, Weber writes, quoting O'Donnell in a 1996 interview,

"...She washed the utensils in the stream, and brought them back to where we had put the tins of food, and indicated 'Were these for her?' We said yes, and she opened her bundle and put them in. She stood there for a few seconds, and then she gave us a smile, and you could have lit up a small village with that smile, and then she said something and walked off into the desert going south, and she was on her own. She walked like a little princess. I never forgot that child.... when I wanted a background for Modesty Blaise, I knew that child was the story."

I don't want to make more out of this than O'Donnell intended; Modesty Blaise is, after all, a fun, sexy superhero--she's entertaining. But I find it touching that this young girl in the desert made such an impression on him. O'Donnell couldn't right the wrongs that had been done to her, but he acknowledged her dignity and beauty and wrote for her a future as an empowered, heroic character. I don't really know how to make a poem out of this, but since I must try:

a girl dressed in rags--
orphaned, hungry, cold--becomes
a desert princess

of all the stories
ever told
there is only one story
and this is it: redemption