Mint tea bag pre sunset post dinner atSpirit Rock in December.
That kind of light at that time of day I remember meeting Selby that August day in 1993, in the Stebbins Berkeley co-op kitchen. She was making a peanut butter sandwich, wearing a flannel shirt and rolled up jeans way before high risers were trendy and I thought: this lady is cool and sexy and has aura, I want to be her friend. There was not exactly a ray of afternoon sunshine coming through the window, but that is how it felt and feels when I think of Selby– that kind of light at that time of day embracing you with love.
Shutters that open and close
It’s been over 11 years now, but if you go to the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, with your back to the building — walk out and take a left, go up one block, cross the street and there — there should be a food stand with the most delicious panini. Did I mention that the windows of Institut du Monde Arabe are 240 motor-controlled apertures? Like a camera they open and close in relation to the light.
I was told this and went location scouting on my 1999 turning 2000 trip to Paris. It was breathtaking and I knew I wanted to share. For those of you who’ve seen my film the to do list confessions, you will now notice this perhaps. And I did have a friend report that as of 5 years ago, the panini stand was still there, and still delicious.
A few months ago I was at a school yard playing with my niece and nephew. We took a break from the playground and ran in the grass, did yoga, cartwheels that felt scary and then empowering, running, running out of breathe. While in a group downward dog my niece says, “The grass is dirty”. Her brother quickly agrees. I tell them that’s what washing up later is for. And heck, when I was a kid I probably ate grass. My niece, who is very by the rules, gets a twinkle in her eyes but asks, “Shall we eat the grass too? Hey, that’s kind of like when we put mint in our water, but not exactly”. Oops. I tell her that I think the grass has changed a lot in the years and may not be as clean to eat (on occasion). Now with all my stories of recalling specific places and instances, I can’t remember when and if I did eat grass, but it is highly likely. Just as there are so many memories that are not quite mine, but borrowed from conversations overhead in passion. One that was not borrowed but found. From the grass we went back to the playground and my niece confessed that she wanted to do a flip on the gymnastic bar but was scared. I showed her a secret way: cup your hand in between your eyebrows where you’ll find your third eye and focus your concentration on what you want to do. Then take a deep breathe and extend your hand outwards in front of you, like you are pulling energy from your third eye and connecting into the world. Repeat this movement and as you breathe in and out, let energy channel within you and find your spirit. We did this for three breathes and she said she was still scared. I confirmed that I would be holding her the whole time and that she may just feel better if she tried it, but she can do whatever she wants. She said “Ok”. “Wait”. The sun was about to set, she took the secret way and then told me she was ready. The next day she got really frustrated with her brother. “R frustrates me sometimes. He is not exercising and he is not going to grow!” I tell her, well, he may frustrate you, but you have to understand that you can choose how you react. So, feel how you feel, but you are in charge and empowered to respond to the frustration or not, that has nothing to do with him. My niece responds, “I get it, I am empowered. I have the power. Because I’m the eldest right?”
Writer’s Note: This fictional non-fiction story is a collage and co-creation inspired by many people and art projects. The title is a reference to a line in Lyn Hejinian’s book The Language of Inquiry (page 388). I first heard this at a reading May, 31 200o. She was reading from her book and saw me in the audience and stopped mid sentence to say, “It’s you, Hi!” She did not know it was my birthday, and gave me the greatest gift that day, seeing me. She did this years before when she accepted me into my first official creative writing class at UCB. I am eternally grateful to Lyn for witnessing and encouraging my artistry and showing me by example how to witness beauty in others. This story is inspired by the amazing Cari Campbell, her lovely brother and the gift Chris Cobb gave us via his art installation “There is Nothing Wrong In this Whole Wide World” (temporary art installion at Adobe Bookstore in San Francisco, CA, 2004). At the end of the story you will find more about the art exhibit. Many thanks to artists’ Derek Powazek, Heather Champ and Superhero Journal who made their images available via a creative commons copyright licence or by permission.
Are you there? I’m here
Her brother was visiting. They were both excited. Everything was exciting. From sitting on the couch chatting to walking to the corner store getting organic groceries. These were things they could only do in San Francisco.
When they were younger they lived near the city and their mom fed them wonder bread and all kinds of processed stuff. She tells him how her mom is finally starting to understand what it means that she lives in a vegetarian household. Now every recipe is one that can easily be substituted with tofu. The news of his wife’s pregnancy is still new, but surely mom and dad will develop some lovely fixating habits around that.
The first day, she picked him up from the airport. This was both their hometown in many ways, so the pick up from the airport was easy-smeasy. They hung out all day together alone before coming to her house where her roommate was having a burrito in the living room and soon, her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s housemate would come over. She cracked out the special bottle of wine she was saving for one of those special occasions. This was surely one of them! She was going to whip them all up some delicious food for this good time.
He woke up early as was expected. He was still on Minnesota time. His sister had gone to sleep at her girlfriend’s house, leaving him her bed. Most of the housemates were away, but one was there, so he was trying to be quiet. He turned on the light though because his sister’s room was one of those San Francisco specials where the window faces a light well. He had to go to the bathroom, but by the time he got to the door, he found it quite difficult to open the door. Maybe his sister was protective and locked him in? He started to read the books in his sister’s room. She was always a little kooky, but Christian Living and The History of Shorts were new peaks. He had read all of the History of Atari when he really needed to go. He tried the door again. Still no budge. Was he really locked in? Should he call her? Maybe she was on the way home and he could wait it out a little.
He started to go through the yoga book but just thinking about the poses made him have to pee, so it seemed best just to close his eyes, lie down and breathe. If he fell asleep would he only be dreaming about pee? It would be so strange if he was locked in. Not only did that not make sense, it is out of character for his sister too! Up until a few years ago, he used to pronounce chamomile tea chamomile instead of chamomile. Breathing, he started to remember about the dream he had.
How odd. He is on 16th street near Valencia and there is a bookstore. It feels familiar, though he has never been there. A golden cat simultaneously leaps over his feet and meows. He looks down to catch a glimpse. His right hand — which has swayed in reaction, covers his view. All the books are arranged by the colors of the spines. Look for magic when you open your eyes. The mysterious fortune from last week’s take-out has to come to life and he wants so very much to jump up and down. There is a sofa in the middle of the bookstore so he sits down next to a young woman who is knitting a scarf. His sister had told him that knitting was the newest trend, like yoga. The scarf the woman knits takes after the blue section — patches of dark blue to midnight blue to electric blue to neon blue to light blue to teal blue to sea blue to blue blue blue everywhere. Across from him he sees one of those books. It hangs off the shelf (attached by a string) and is asking for him and only him to come to it, at that very second. He does. It is an email list. Not sure for what, but it must be to the one who colored the room so his eyes could have magic. He is smiling and astonished.
He calls his sister on her cell phone.
Are you there? I’m here.
His hand reaches for the knob of the door. If he pretends it is not locked, it may not be. As he pulls, the door opens as his sister comes in. I thought you locked me in and I have to go pee. She smiles at him and without any hesitation, the doors in this house get jammed sometimes, they just need a little nudge.