PREPARING FOR DEPARTURE • THE BU 2010 • MARCH
Not to mention: “Oops! A slight change of plans…”
“Don’t let reality break your heart,” has been my mantra for this week.
The tiger is pacing again. Days are melting away and the flow is north. We depart the Bu in nine days.
It has been a remarkable three months in Malibu. I have just begun to get cozy here in meetings with my old cadre of friends. It takes time to find your place in the pride. With relentless determination, the hungry cub must search for the right teat, one with able nourishment and within reach.
I felt out of sync with the world. The orchestra kept tuning up without me. On Monday I played along in perfect harmony, but on Tuesday I arrived to discover my instrument needed tweaking in order to meld into the wholeness of the melody. But now it has all come good. I feel replete with spiritual calories and confident enough to compose and improvise on impulse.
Unblemished joy: I have rediscovered the wonders of living by the sea. The smell, taste and bite of ocean air. The rhythm of crashing waves. At eye level: the flight of pelicans; the sight of leaping dolphins; the blue heron landing on the path five feet away as we wrap up our dog walk on the bluffs; the chirping of birds announcing spring; the ability of the sunrise and sunset to ever enthrall and amaze; the soporific roar of the waves in the night.
I shall miss the ocean so very much.
When I had my Bohemian garret on the Venice Boardwalk — way back when — I couldn’t wait to go out at first light and walk on the wet, cold sand. I even practiced yoga on the beach — a very uncharitable location with its tendency to shift under every movement. But the magic in the air compensated for a hard-to-hold tree or eagle posture.
Sorry, I have been delinquent in keeping the diary up to date. Busy working and playing and living and letting reality have its way with my heart.
Back on the Farm
(You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.)
I‘m back home. It’s cold. It snowed.
I walk with trepidation when I fetch the morning paper – 4:30 AM. More than once I have fallen on the black ice and injured neck, arms, hands and knees. Being on a blood thinner isn’t a pretty sight when you come up against life’s hard realities — literally speaking — metaphorically, it is a whole other elephant to skate on.
The sun has made an appearance, so naturally I headed for my favorite editing spot on the lawn, a stack of papers under arm. Unlike sitting outside in Malibu, I was wearing two sweaters, thick socks and my brown cashmere trench coat which has seen better days. It’s still soft, homely and warm, even if the lining is in tatters — a web that entangles my fingers and takes them hostage every time I pull it on or remove it.
There I sat reading, red pen poised, gazing out at the dense greenness of pine trees, bamboo, and the naked honeysuckle bravely pressing new buds and tiny shreds of green out of its brown stick-like branches. In another month, it will be a pushy climber, bushy with green leaves and deliciously scented fragile, pink and white flowers.
Nearby, a charming cluster of early spring blossoms have erupted: daffodils, narcissi, hyacinths. The birds are on overtime, building nests, tweeting and flitting hither and yon. The sounds of home rest gently on my ears. I move to the song of the splashing water as it cascades over the pond’s waterfalls. The willow branches sway with me. The robins and finches accompany us with a maze of chirps and twitters. Then there is the percussive swooping of wings as the red tailed hawks return to their nests in the towering redwoods and of course, in the background I hear the white noise of cars speeding down the adjacent country road. I can almost pretend it’s the ocean’s roar, but not quite. How different this is from the vast blue vista down south, the cacophony of crashing waves and the small community of neighbors coming and going, and of course the inescapable sound of cars speeding down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Life is full of contrasting delights. When I let go of my preferences, judgments and comparisons, each moment offers a new thrill, an insight to the joys of impermanence. I feel grateful for the abundant offerings and purity of Mother Nature.
NO I’M NOT INSANE. I MAY BE REPEATING THE SAME BEHAVIORS,
I’M NOT EXPECTING DIFFERENT RESULTS.
Progress, not perfection!
This is the “Oops!” part.
Here’s the clincher. We drove all day last Wednesday. That was my birthday. Yes I did feel a little sorry for myself. I had planned to be lunching in the Bu with my bosom friend, Ann, and in the evening, dining by the sea on pasta and Tricolore salad with R, my magical friend Dotti and her pal. Instead, Robert and I were barreling up the barren I-5 spectacularly interested in eating up miles and getting home as soon as possible. Sustenance consisted of goat cheese and avocado sandwiches, apples, oranges, bananas, dark chocolate, Kombucha, dried fruits and Tahini Chews (Dog bless Robin and Four and Twenty Blackbirds).
On departure this time, we left the Muffin in situ. She has moved from her old site # 30 to a new location: a corner in a cul de sac with green plants on her left instead of a neighbor. Now we can throw open the shades and window, inviting the sunlight and sea air into our parlor. Our new setting has a spacious deck, whereas on site # 30 we sort of teetered on the bluff’s edge. The new view includes the curving coastline of the Queen’s necklace and green hills punctuated with yellow daisies. We sacrifice that omnipotent view of the ocean and yes there are power lines (sigh) but so far we are content.
Everything is a trade off, isn’t it? To that well worn question, “But why can’t I have it all?” one can only reply, “Because.” or “Where would you put it?” I assure them I would figure it out, but it’s true there is never enough when one is greedy and caught up in the realm of the senses. I realize that everything is “Just right” and I feel blessed; I am reminded to cultivate contentment in all areas of my life. This indeed has proven to be a well tested recipe for happiness.
We loaded the truck with supplies for the road and those items we wanted to park at home. This enabled us to drive like bats out of vats for 700 dreary miles. We were Hellbent on reaching home in one horrendously long day, instead of two nights on the road, a necessity when pulling the Muffin, as you know if you have been following along.
HOME AT LAST
We were exhausted when we growled up the drive, but unpacking was minimal and after a tedious day of studying the asphalt and nibbling odd food, we exhaled deeply and luxuriously expanded into the 4700 square feet of our home on the farm. The dogs went in and out of their doggy doors in a state of awe and appreciation. I felt utterly disoriented and couldn’t remember the simplest things, “Where do the knives life? How do I retrieve my messages from THIS machine?” and so forth. Six days later and I have spread out to fill the space, but I have been in a pant trying to get things done because… wait for it… yes, we are driving south again in one week.
“You are kidding,” my friends utter with a mixture of admiration and disdain. “You’re going back? But you just got home. Are you moving down there?”
“No no no,” I assure them.
Here’s what happened. Picture this. I emerge from my morning meeting on the Malibu Park bluffs — all uplifted and insufferably cheerful. R approaches with dogs in tow on leads –keen for their habitual hike on the trail, fresh sniffies and ball chasing. He looks keen, too. The cat with the cream, for sure. Not very English of him, but there it was. Clearly something was up.
“I’ve had an epiphany,” he pronounces with that impish grin he gets when he’s revved up by some new scheme, “Plan C.”
“What is Plan C?” I take the bait. Pitiful, isn’t it?
“Well, we pack up the basics, leave the Muffin here, drive home in the truck, take care of business, pack up your printing, writing and art gear and head back to Malibu until May. By the time we return home, the weather will be hospitable, and we can turn on the solar power and fire up the pool.”
See that was the golden nugget for this Pisces — the pool tidbit — not that I didn’t rise to the possibility of another luxurious, if cramped, six weeks by the sea exploring my new found ease with life on the bluffs and in the company of old and new comrades.
“Hmmm, ” I say.
Pause. Stall for time. Pray for wise guidance.
My practical and over responsible voice was repeating…”No no no. Can’t do it. Too much to attend to at home: the appointment with the book designer for Puddle Moon, the catalogue cover to paint, the new article and artwork for the magazine and your neglected novel. Besides you are psyched for home. You miss the spaciousness, your bathtub, the hot tub and the bidet, not to mention the doggy door.
“OK, ” I blurt out with beaming smile. “Why not? Sounds great. Life is short.”
I don’t know that for sure, except in the existential sense of space and time, but it is always an irrefutable argument. Rationalizations and denial are art forms.
“But what about all my work commitments and my friends?” Guilt. I hate disappointing people. My dog-like traits rear their pretty heads again.
“We can bring the printer and scanner back. You’ll have your book meeting as scheduled, and then we’re off again. And … we can bring your car down.” See he did it again. Tacked on that extra added attraction. The unexpected bonus at the end, the offer that you just can’t refuse.
At our best, Robert and I have lived in balance through the years. When I’m flying high with new ideas, he brings me back to earth. When he is is spouting new projects and effervescent with enthusiasm, I tamp him down. For the most part, it has kept us out of big trouble, with the exception of acquiring a few more vintage cars than your average bunny could possibly need.
Even in my most extravagant moments, my ideas tend to be more esoteric and bite size: book and art ventures, travel, my own yoga studio, a new puppy. His are always super-sized: draft horses, a new tractor, a semi-truck in which to transport the four draft horses, a vintage Roller. Usually we strike a balance, but sometimes we are both in an adventurous, madcap mood at the same time. This was one of those impulsive unguarded moments. We were stung simultaneously and our impetuosity was destined to run amok. Wherever common sense was dwelling, we were heading in the opposite direction, half way around the globe of reason.
Hence in the next seven days at home, I fulfilled card orders, mapped out the new book plan with the designer so we can go to print in the early summer, booked a reading/signing event at the Bodhi Tree for December 4. Today I will finish the black and white design for the cover, then I can paint it at my table overlooking the ocean. Robert spent the day at our accountants preparing the taxes. We took both of our vehicles in for service. Our friend and computer guru spent two days of backwards go working on our Macs. The first day was spent installing all our bumpf on a new computer and upgrading our computer capacities. The second day was spent fixing all the bugs that resulted from the first day of installation. Still it promises to give us more efficiency in our creative and business abilities while living on the road. Such is the theory, anyway.
Next to illness, technology heads the list for making one feel insane and powerless.
“Surrender! and deal with it in the morning.” Robert and I recite in unison at five o’clock on day one. Then we plunk down in the den with dinner and a new movie.
Oh and by the way, did I mention that we put the house on the market? (Egads! but more about that later.)
When doubts began to bubble up and the skeptical voice in my head started to badger me, I reflected on how our impulsive decision came about. I blame human nature. It reminded me of how I feel after finishing a delicious and elegant dinner at Sammy’s , followed by a sumptuous chocolate dessert. Although I might be a little too full, I happily lean back in my chair, sigh deeply and give myself over to that rarified sense of well being one enjoys after a truly great leisurely meal, served graciously and consumed in the company of close, loving friends.
Our three months had left us replete and yet in one unguarded moment, we craved more. Seconds of everything. Simply put, we caved. No harm done, and in this case it’s not even fattening. We did return to a partial state of sensibility after our intense turnaround chez-nous. We decided to cut our traveling portions from six weeks to three. I have faith that the true wisdom of this second voyage will reveal itself in the fullness of time. As they say, “Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow, baby.”
My meditation practice always benefits from these fits of delusion. In addition, the workshops I taught during those three months down south renewed my Kirtan practice. I am chanting and singing again and playing my Harmonium. Happily, I have regained my chops on the keyboard and feel confident to let the sounds play themselves, while my heart soars.
Okay I must meditate. My mind is chanting, ” So much to do, so much to do.”
“All in good time,” Mumbles mumbles. “All in good time. Now throw the ball!”
“Stay in the moment, Mari. Remember your priorities. In a single breath, life can change forever. Savor this moment. Don’t squander a single precious morsel of now.”
Celebrating my birthday will have to wait until next week when we return to the Bu.
And by the way, did I mention that while we were down south, we bought a 1997 Bentley Continental T? It was waiting for us when we arrived home. I call her The Empress-Panther. She is very sexy — moist making. Outrageous, I know, and yet, I bet you’re not surprised, if you have been reading the Purple Muffin Diary since its debut.
In our own defense, we did sell the Morse Jag.
For those of you who aren’t mystery buffs, the fabulous John Thaw played inspector Morse on a well-loved PBS Mystery series. Morse was a cynical but romantic, opera loving, cross-word puzzling (London Times no less) hard drinking ace detective who loved his booze and worshiped his red 1961 red Jaguar. (It resembles a bowler hat.)
I’ll write you from the Bu in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, back to work. “Pant pant.”
Be loving. Feel loved. Kiss you dog on the nose, fluff up your moggie and listen to the sound of the flower petals opening to the mid-morning sun.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Back to the Bu
We were on the road for eleven hours yesterday. “Let’s just get there!” We agreed. Gruesome but worth it. However midway, Robert pulled into a rest-stop saying: ” I can’t keep my eyes open, can you drive?”
After the initial shock, I picked up the cue. “Of course”, says my mouth. “Pound pound,” says my heart.
I got out. He got out. We circled the wagon. I got in. He got in. In the driver’s seat, I was sitting high above the road about to steer nine thousand pounds of metal down the Interstate 5. Honeybun takes the wheel. I adjusted the huge wing mirrors, not quite sure what I was supposed to be seeing in them and taking advice from Himself — between his yawns. In the rear view mirror I had a slit-eyed view of the world interrupted by the blue flapping tarp intended to shield our four boxes from the elements. They were tied to the back with an array of bungee chords.
I repeated the mantra, “My other car is a Bentley. My other car is a Bentley. I can do this. I have been driving since I was sixteen. Four wheels are four wheels or our case there are six underneath a dually super-cab. Okay let’s hit the tarmac, but please Divine Dog, not anything else.”
And off we went. Slowly I accelerated, checked both wing mirrors and eased into traffic. I drove for four hours, gulping bottle after bottle of spring water. I was perspiring and getting cramp in my right hand from gripping the steering wheel like a life raft in a turbulent sea.
Apparently mastering your wing mirrors is the trick to driving and pulling large vehicles. Robert and Stevie, our friendly farmer, feel this is a guy thing. I quote: “For women, mirrors are for looking in to, whereas for men, mirrors are for looking out from.” I’m trying to unseat that sexist cliché. Just give me a few hundred more miles under my belt.
It turned out to be quite liberating. Through the years I have forced myself to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Usually, it amounts to committing to a new book reading or taking on a tough writing assignment or illustration job, or teaching an unknown group of hardcore new-millennium Yogis.
When we moved to the ranch things like delivering a lamb, building a fence, riding a horse, learning how to drive a team of draft horses and being chased across a field by an ornery ram qualified for pressing the veil of fear.
…And there were those flights in the Ultra Lite Trike where the accent is abrupt and at a 45 degree angle. (Absolutely thrilling!) … And there was the time I accompanied Robert on a his flying lesson where he intentionally stalled the Cesna at the coaxing of his instructor.
Since moving to the farm, it includes driving the baling truck and cutting hay with a team of Shires and chasing an escaping antelope down a busy street. Boy can they run and they are powerful, unstoppable without a delectable bucket of Cob (corn, oats, barley).
Then there is the generic human front: I held my father’s hand while he exhaled his last breath. I said goodbye to my mother and didn’t die of grief. I dared to come back to life in the IC following open heart surgery. Apparently I kept resisting taking my first breath without the respirator. All I wanted to do was go to sleep.
Every day we all do very brave things that only we recognize and some bold ones that others applaud. But our fears and demons are private, not to mention our fetishes, obsessions and niggling little secrets. Bravo to all of us.
One more notable moment occurred during my recent driving education. We stopped for diesel at the Love station. No I didn’t make that up. There is a gas station called Love, and there I received my first lesson in how to pump my own gas — diesel in this case — and use a credit card. With a vehicle like ours, this procedure has to clone itself, since the pump only allows you to rack up a $75 charge. So you have to close out the first transaction and then initiate a second, repeating the whole procedure again. The truck holds 90 gallons of diesel, 71 up top and 19 underneath. (File that information away. You just never know when you might need to impress someone new in your life.) But wait, there’s more: a gallon of diesel weighs just over seven pounds, so when we are “full up”, we are carrying more than 600 pounds of fuel. Makes me glad I don’t smoke for yet another reason. So there you have a few bits of trivia to share in a moment of awkward silence while waiting for your entree. I doubt it will come up in the New York Times Crossword, but it’s always good to be prepared for any eventuality.
Robert is so proud of me for driving the truck and yet when I publish a new book he is nonchalant. Aren’t people funny? Aren’t we amazing creatures?
And after the initial shock all I can say is: ” Morsel gataeux. What took me so long?”
I am continuing to hone my driving skills in the Ford F450. I’ve progressed to driving up and down the PCH in Malibu and today I drove the curvy bit of Sunset Blvd. that takes you into the Palisades. Parking, however, seems completely beyond my ken. But who knows?
Catch you later. Play well and surprise someone with a real kiss.