Monday, August 22, 2005

"Progress" and Retreat

(Mostly written Saturday, sorry for the delayed post)

It was so depressing, that walk a few nights ago--why did I do it again? My curiosity got the better of me, perhaps. And the sight of an entire neighborhood, cramped, paved, and stuccoed springing up complete would be too horrific to bear all at once. Better to see it in increments, to try to accustom myself to the new reality as it's constructed.

So once again, the night before last, Rex and I walked through the model homes to the hill behind, where men with enormous machines are tearing up what was once a perfectly lovely field ringed by oak-covered slopes. Night was coming, but in between was a thick low layer of clouds that ended at the rim of hills westward, like a lid that wasn't quite closed. The sunset limned the edge of land and sky, heightening the bruised darkness of the clouds directly above me. The terraced home lots, descending deeper than the original level of the field, looked like fresh graves. (Yes, I was in a foul mood.) Here was the dusty artery of a road overlaying the bones of the field. The crowded future pressed on my heart. Dog and I followed the road up the hill, where I'd never been before--where would this road lead to, I wondered? There's nothing down that way yet. Yet. Oh.

The oaks on either side of the road were huge, old, that over-used word, majestic--would anyone even see them once the road was finished? Would they just rush by thoughtlessly? It was all just crushingly sad. And I felt unsafe, too. Like a four-wheeler would come screeching around a corner, throwing up gravel and taking out me, the dog, or both. That I would encounter some rough fellows and the landscaped wouldn't be the only thing ripped up. I was amazed that I didn't fear the dark as much as I once did. Well, I guess I was afraid, but my fear was rooted in the world I actually live in rather than the supernatural like it once was. The darkness used to make me worry about vampires, but I fear my fellow man much more now. Soon, I wouldn't be able to walk in the middle of the road as I was doing--it would become four lanes of traffic.

Back through the homes being built, an SUV cruised the streets across from us, headlights shining through the metal and board skeletons of new homes. I was reminded again that soon someone would be living there. Happy, I hope, to make up for the grasslands that are now lost.


I'm at our writers retreat in Stinson Beach. Sound of waves, wind in the bamboo, three sets of fingers tiptaptyping on Mac laptops; belly full of good cheese, good bread, and chocolate. I'm ensconced on the sofa of Julia's parents' beach cabin, working on the God essay, and I realize I just don't have anything new to add to the discussion of the Divine. I can't even parrot the tired arguments in a sassy fashion. I'm just complaining, railing--and not even very cogently. Maybe I should go back to the foot-loose-and-child-free essay. Or the novel (I almost typed "navel" hmm), which Nancy recently asked after.

PWG retreating

There's also the possibility of exiting the beach house and heading out to the actual beach with pen and notebook. I've been thinking a poem might be in order, since this retreat is a special day, and should be commemorated. But I'm so out of practice. Perhaps another piece of chocolate will help guide me.




OK. Back from the beach. Twice.

The first time, I just sat on the beach, watching the passersby, particularly the dogs. One was obsessed with its master's boogie board, knocking it down at every opportunity so he could try to bury it. One couple carefully built a small dune before spreading their blanket--they reclined in unison upon their sandy lounge. And that's all I did. Watched. Closed my eyes and listened. I couldn't believe this was my first trip to the beach this season. Well, I've had a busy summer.

The second time, all three of us went for a walk. Lovely beach houses peeked just above the dunes. We passed a dead seal, and on the way back, a man was kneeling by the carcass, gloved hands bright red, dipping in and out of the dark body. An artist? Scientist? Culinary adventurer? On a dare, Rebecca went up to ask him his business with the departed pinniped: he was with the California Academy of Science, harvesting the skull and penis bone for bacterial testing. I admire people with the stomach for that kind of work.

However, no poetry, no breakthroughs today. I did get some writing done, however, and that's the main thing. The wonderful surrounds was certainly a bonus.


P.S. to Don: Get Well Soon!


A fine, busy Sunday it was: back down to San Rafael for a clothes swap with a group of galpals. Nothing like wandering around in your underwear trying to select a bag or two of free, good quality clothes from the rooms of it available to lift one's spirits. A dear friend was there, and we had a snack, a chat, and a shop in the tony mall in Corte Madera afterwards. It was such a nice spur of the moment date with my friend--I wish I could see her more often.

While at the mall, I tried to spend a wedding gift in Williams-Sonoma, but just couldn't quite find the right item. At Crate & Barrel, however, they've added pieces to our wedding china set. Holy cats! We now have *another* platter (like we need it) and a salt-and-pepper set--though we grind our pepper and use only sea or kosher salt. But they're just so dang cute. I tell myself it's an investment, it'll become collectible after Eva passes. Well, it's almost a plausible excuse...


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