Sunday, August 11, 2013

Truth or Dare, Sculpture Gardens, and New Perhaps Maybes with Liz Brennan

Detail from Bryan Tedrick's Space Cowboy
Finally! Breaking a two month blog stall…and I’m blaming…summer. Summer with all three children at my side, diving into the pool or paddling away from me into the ocean. And one trip to ER for a concussion. Two 10ish-year-olds alone in the living room. A mattress from their sleepover standing on end, one party supine on floor beneath the mattress. Picture the second party launching off the couch and ricocheting his body off the mattress so it lands on top of the child on the floor. The result: “foamy” vision (my son's words), near loss of consciousness, temporary loss of memory regarding the events leading up to the near blackout.

Truth or dare? the doctor asks my son. Yes, he tells her, a piece of information he didn’t share voluntarily with me til now. She calmly informs him many children his age (and younger) have died from Truth or Dare, lists the most popular culprits (choking, inhaling toxic substances, drinking too much of just about any liquid). She places her hand over her solar plexus, reminds him to listen to his gut.

“If you are ever dared to do something either your mother or I would not think is a good idea, you just don’t do it. And you live. Ok?” commands the doctor. He nods. Then proceeds to fail the brain test she gives him. She puts him on a month-long activity restriction to mitigate second-blow trauma: no last week of junior life-guard camp, no competing in the championship, no reading, no homework (“why couldn’t this have happened during the school year,” he gripes), no texting, no video games, no chores, no contact sports, no surfing, no concentrating, you get it…

Add to the above a non-stop stream of neighborhood children ringing the doorbell--a blissful state of affairs for my children after so many years in the woods without a friend in a ten mile radius. A bit of a shock for hermit poet mom (yours truly) but the commotion, according to my husband, is good for me and keeps the long-term poetry brooding from taking too many Keatsian turns or any turns at all (for a zine that takes essays on your favorite poem that takes a turn, check out Voltage Poetry, edited by Kim Addonizio and Michael Theune). Anyway, I’m taking my turn next week when I head off to A Room of Her Own Foundation’s 2013 Ghost Ranch soiree where I’ll be teaching Transformative Blogging: Inquiry via Mask and soaking in the hours of presentations given by the 100 or so women writers attending the retreat.

Summer travels, too, contributed to the blogstall…A trip up north to the redwoods in late July replete with soul friends and the art/writing infusion I so much needed fills me with joy, starting in San Francisco with my brother and his wife, soaking in the art of their home (much of it my brother's). Cruising the book shelf, I find Cynthia Giles The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore, which my sister-in-law kindly allows me to borrow. Understandably-- I hope--my blogging pace here at Feral Mom and at Transformative Blogging has slowed to a crawl…and with Giles book in hand, my heart turns towards 2014’s Transformative Blogging tentative focus on the tarot.

Thriving on the former home turf meant time with Liz Brennan, recording new movie readings of Perhaps Maybes outside in her garden, persevering despite a crossfire of sunbeams, the sweeping cries of a hawk, the nefarious grinding of several of her landlord’s gravel trucks creeping up the driveway. We switched places and shed sweaters to make it appear as if we’d recorded on different occasions, making the most of our time together with cold peach teas and hot blackberry cobbler Liz topped off with ice cream. The fruit of our labors:
I even wrangled in a quick porch chat with my sculptor friend Sandy, her upcoming trip to Italy threading its way through our conversation. Thanks to my bootlegged Cynthia Giles—which mentions Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tuscany based sculpture garden of tarot—I have a future trip to Italy to plan towards. My father and his wife (my micro-movie collaborator Robyn) took us to the local sculpture gardens of Paradise Ridge Winery…where we reveled in the sunlight pouring its shadows through the massive metal lace cowboy hat of Bryan Tedrick,  and Bruce Johnson's beautiful bee tribute, Five Elements.

I was sad to find the Poetry House missing (due to vandalism), remembering a visit six years prior in which I carried my seven month old son on my hip through the tiny tea-house like structure. This visit, we lingered til the kids grew hot and cranky, tangling for a coveted seat on the bottom leg of the three-dimensional letter E of the LOVE sculpture (Laura Kimpton & Jeff Schomberg), each letter comprised of beautifully rusting sheets of metal punctured with rows and rows of bird-shaped cutouts...through which you can see birds flying away on the reverse side. Robyn took much better photos, but here's one of mine.

And one early morning, my husband and I parceled out the kids, rose and slid the kayaks into the Russian River, gliding through the faint wisps of morning fog, the pale grey trunks topped with lone turtles, the dusty blue of a Grey Heron watching us approach and pass, passing as part of his world, proving we all belong by not flying away. The water so still I watch my husband's paddles meet his double's paddles, the mottled cliffs doubling themselves too, a second sky floating between our kayaks. We pass the Bohemian Grove property, waving to the guard keeping lonely vigil over cliffs my husband's feet have climbed on more than one occasion over the years, off-season, for that spectacular plummet into the river.
Following a mini-meltdown when I return to Coronado (homesickness, my Aunt Rose assures me), Mary Allen (who blogs at Harnessing Time) throws cards for me long distance and the reading—especially the Princess of Disks and The Queen of Swords--mirrors back some of the push/pull I feel returning to the blue sunlit skies of Coronado. 
We use the Thoth deck—which should really be referred to as the Crowley-Harris deck, since its artwork was created by Lady Frieda Harris—in the same way we see Pamela Waite’s name appearing in reference to the Rider deck. Most of the time, Mary and I use the Crowley-Harris deck, but refer often to the pictorial images of the Rider-Waite for a balanced synergy. I love that both decks exist due to male/female teams and feel the resulting artwork and imagery is stronger for the dual visions behind them.
I relate the Princess of Disks with her feet in the roots of the trees to my ever present love for the northern California redwoods. And the Queen of Swords, high on her blue throne in the clouds, to my new Coronado life. The queen is crowned by a child’s face, sword down low, pointing earthwards as she attempts to not only take advantage of her new aerial position but stay connected to what she learned in the woods…and in her right hand, a bearded mask. She’s unmasking. Which feels appropriate in a way as I head to Ghost Ranch to work with women bloggers, where we will write, make masks, and dialogue with the masks as a way to clarify blogging goals and focus.

In the meantime I’m delighted to learn that tarot garden sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle spent some years in San Diego, that if I rummage around maybe I can find the sculpture that supposedly graces the port of San Diego with its half male/half female face. Even as I miss the quiet green glades of my former acre of redwoods, in Coronado, it seems to me the sky remains perpetually bright and blue, the brash white of sailboat sails far below the Blue Bridge portioning out the harbor where by night my husband dives with his students. To the right lies the tiny rind of land where we live, and just beyond, the hills of Mexico...a new landscape, not yet fully explored. In time, I will undoubtedly love it as much as the woods.
Additional notes:
For a lovely post about tarot and writing exercises, including one we did on the Sea Ranch retreat, see Barbara Ann Yoder’s blog post, Writing The Star.

See Notecard to a Nursing Mother: Get thee to a Sculpture Garden...with Baby for a closer look at that trip to poetry house with my seventh month old on hip (hosted at Mother Writer Mentor). We are ever questing for posts by other mother poets, mother writers, father writers too, on all aspects of parenting and writing.

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