The tops of my feet ascend to the ceiling. Along with a chisel’s width strip down one shoulder blade, both feet from arch top to toes radiate back the day’s sun, day four of vacation in Coronado, testament to the rushed sunscreen slather (such zeal to get back to reading Dinner with Persephone, all three children busy with their drip castles and maze of wave-flooded highways). The tingling gives a mingled sense of levitation and vertigo, spiritual glee even, goaded by the cadence of the family snoring. Their night ends, mine begins, and I range like a loosed marmot over the day’s beauty: the four foot froth of breaking waves, the expanse of lacey white skimming towards the kids’ ankles, tiny flecks of gold skittering beneath the thin shelf of retreating water, pelicans collapsing beyond the break like umbrellas for the plunge.
With a life-guard tower behind me and two yellow trucks roaming the beach stocked with sturdy, tan, twenty-some-things, I can afford to dip back into my book chronicling a poet’s year abroad in Greece, fantasize someday it’ll be me eating olives and learning a language. Instead I feast on Patricia Storace’s imagery (Dinner with Perspehone) from a stolen statue from the Porch of Maidens, to the “dense pool of wavering emerald shadows, where the darkness was not nocturnal but fertile” to the history of the dreamers of Greece and the years of interpretation and omen.
When Storace writes, “A modern dreamer making a statue, according to several of my dream books, wishes to perfect some aspect of himself, and is preparing for an opportunity to do that,” I immediately think of the parallel to writing poetry. I recognize that striving to capture something in order to bring it forth for love of others, though I hadn’t exactly thought of it as something to perfect in one’s self, heart, or psyche. Daily, as I go about the daunting task of motherhood, there’s always 1% of my brain floating its way towards the next poem, or preparing for the opportunity, which opens up most often at night, like now, feet on fire, thinking of Storace’s world of incense, the vulgar gestures of taxi drivers, oleanders, and the Virgin Mary. Inevitably I will be propelled towards my unlined tiny spiral notebook, waiting for me on the cold porcelain rim of the tub. On such a sun-sated day, it’s hard to rise, but a friend recently reminded me how crucial it is to write when you’re happy.
And today’s happiness, frankly, hardwon. By the end of our ten-hour drive, the car floor a tangle of plastic Easter Grass, knitting projects for two of the children with more than one ball of yarn attached, power bar wrappers, popcorn, crayons, coloring books, a bag of sand and shells from the overnight stop at Shell Beach oozing its damp contents over socks and bottles of bubbles, should it surprise me Day One would explode with non-stop brawls. 8:30 a.m: two of my children staked out in front of the slider in hopes of seeing again who they claim was The Easter Bunny (one hysterical jack-rabbit we glimpsed skirting the parking lot at dusk the night before) until one of them decided the spot between the beds was prime “fort” real estate, announced it, and the grass couldn’t have been greener or more worth dying for.
After the fray escalates with a frenzy of punches, we make our fury-tag way out of the hotel lobby and out into the sand, where the drone of the motorized raker and the Navy Base helicopter give us better cover. I phone my mom friend Emily, mother of three children mirroring my children’s ages and gender, to talk me down out of the Hefty Bag Fantasy—you know the one—in which you duct-tape together a parachute and head off the Vista Point behind the rest stop while the family uses the bathroom. A serene, quiet float to the valley floor for a cup of coffee alone…
My friend’s gentle laugh, insistence on meeting for coffee when we get back, her offer to put her daughter on the phone to snap the kids out of their fight helps immensely. I’d have put my daughter on the phone, but from the velocity with which the tennis shoes and flip flops erupt over the palm brush, I predict my girl’s more interested in hitting her target than chatting. I say a hasty goodbye, take a deep breath, and hear myself shout, “If you don’t stop and drop to the sand to work this out instantly, I will get a newspaper and hire a sitter for you since you are not listening to me.” Arms reloaded with shoes, they all three stop—eye me curiously, and sit down. Wow. The weirdest things work when we all get pushed to the edge.
Later, I take a second weird joy in standing in the direct flight-path of the stream of helicopters taking off and landing on the airstrip behind our hotel. I never thought I’d ever experience such peace in the thunderous drone, the way all your cells vibrate, especially one’s throat and heart, so that for an instant you forget everything but the grey underbelly of the copter, childhood’s fascination for the perfect arc of spinning rotors, and the thrill of something so heavy defying gravity.