A Shaky Reading

On Sunday afternoon I went to a poetry reading. When I stood up to do my thing, Both my voice and knees began to shake.

What was going on? I performed as a storyteller every day in the school library for seven years. Then I remembered. That was thirty years, almost a lifetime, ago.

We all live so many lives. (I know if I walked up to my younger self, I’d scare the pants off her.)

The poem I botched on Sunday was from a sequence of dramatic monologues I wrote when we were living in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Yes, LA does have distinct neighborhoods. I’ll tell you more about them another time.)

I composed the piece in the late eighties or early nineties for a group of actors who teamed up with the Arroyo Arts Collective to do cold readings of local authors’ poems, short stories, and novel excerpts. The title was “The Marriage Bed.”

Mostly invented, the sequence drew on things that happened even earlier in my life, in the mid-sixties.

I was nineteen. I’d just run away and married my husband, a guy I’d dated a month.

On our first morning together the phone rang. One of my husband’s friends, Jim Ashley, lived in Ouray, a tiny nineteenth-century mining town in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. He worked for the Idorado Mine, the village’s economic engine.

The afternoon before, Jim had stepped on a rotten board just inside the mine entrance and plummeted down through a dark vertical tunnel all the way from the Red Mountain entrance to the Telluride entrance, hundreds of feet.

I didn’t know Jim, but that secondhand experience drilled itself into my mind. Every so often I fall into it, just as I did on Sunday.

There was one more layer to my shaky reading. After its first, last, and only cold performance by the Arroyo Arts Collective players, “The Marriage Bed” disappeared into my files. I made a few half-hearted attempts to send it out, but knew it was destined to be one of those things I did just for myself. (There are a LOT of those.)

Then I saw a call for an anthology in Coda (which later became Poets and Writers.) It was for ghost poems. The voice in one of the monologues in The Marriage Bed, “Frank,” was a ghost, the long-dead father of the husband in the story.   I sent it.

It was accepted. I’d forgotten about the book, Ghost of a Chance,  until Sunday. Looking at it, I was amazed. There I was, hired-gun ed writer, with Rita Dove, Billy Collins, and others famous for their poetry.

Then I remembered, huddling in the back seat of my dad’s ’41 Chevy, playing with the sounds of words. I must have been two or three.

We live so many lives. So many layered lives. Sharing them with others can be a shaky experience, but we only have the stage for a few minutes, so why not?

 

 

 

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Yesterday on the way home from lunch, we spotted some things that looked like rocks amid the sage, junipers, and pinon at the base of the Monument’s cliffs just off South Broadway between Fruita and Grand Junction (western Colorado). I pulled off the road, and, sure enough, the bighorns were there. It wasn’t this bunch. It was a group of bachelor rams snoozing in the early spring sun.You never know what you will see! Even a drive across town can be an adventure.

Liliuokalani Park in Hilo

Today, I was delighted to be back in touch with a dear friend. A few years ago, she moved from western Colorado to Hawaii’s Big Island. http://www.gohawaii.com/big-island

With this blog in mind, I asked her about favorite places. She named many, including Volcanoes National Park, http://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm where, last year, she roasted a hot dog over a volcanic vent.

Liliuokalani Park in Hilo is special for her in a quieter and more ongoing way. It is a beautiful park with Japanese gardens. She walks there almost every day, and I understand why.

I haven’t been to Hawaii, yet, but, when we were living in Los Angeles, I enjoyed the Japanese garden at the Huntington Library in Pasadena. http://www.huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary.aspx?id=512

We loved to visit in the spring when the cactus in the desert garden were blooming. It was fun to see copies of  William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience  along with letters in the handwriting of countless great authors in the Library. http://www.huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary.aspx?id=544&linkidentifier=id&itemid=544 The American Art Gallery with its Hopper and Cassatt canvases was also a favorite stop.http://www.huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary.aspx?id=196&linkidentifier=id&itemid=196

My husband, daughter, and I often visited the tea garden at Descanso Gardens in La Canada. http://lacanadaflintridge.patch.com/articles/descanso-gardens-secret-summer-hot-spot

In fact, my daughter and I walked through those gardens almost every day after I picked her up from high school. We walked when the roses were blooming, and through oak-shaded groves of camellias.

We talked about everything and nothing. Sometimes, we didn’t talk at all. When she was studying for her part in Othello, http://shakespeare.mit.edu/othello/full.html she discussed the character and practiced her lines. I learned more from her insights than I had in any college class. Now, thinking about it all these years later, I am back there again.

Our garden here in Grand Junction has no Japanese tea house, though it does have a delightful fairy tale castle for children. The Western Colorado Botanical Garden celebrates plants that flourish in our high desert climate. http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-colorado-usda-plant-zone-hardiness-map.php It includes an herb garden, a cactus garden, and a sculpture garden celebrating local history. My husband and I like to photograph the frogs in their pond.  http://www.wcbotanic.org/ In the winter, their warm indoor tropical garden is a pleasant break from the snow.

Public gardens are special places. If a city were a day, then a garden would be a time set aside for meditation.

Dawn always comes too soon demotivational poster from Zazzle.com

A recent adventure involved a very short drive early in the morning.

At the end of August, there was a blue moon, the second full moon of the month.

My husband and I drove to the foot of the Colorado National Monument about a mile from our house in Grand Junction at 6:30. A late monsoonal storm was moving through the area, filling the sky with heaps of broken cloud.

As the huge moon set over sandstone cliffs to our left, a red sun rose over the Grand Mesa on the opposite side of the valley.

Standing there beside our little Honda in the pale light, we could feel the turning of the Earth.

The link below leads to a photograph of that amazing dawn.

Dawn always comes too soon demotivational poster from Zazzle.com.