Monday, January 30, 2012

go fish

while my family and i were on vacation on sanibel island earlier in january, we spent a day fishing in the coves and inlets around the ding darling wildlife refuge. we hired a local guy recommended to us for fishing expeditions to take us out on his boat and provide fishing rods, bait, and his knowledge of where the fish might be biting.

with the exception of kevin, not one of us is a die-hard fisherman. by die-hard i mean a person who gets all excited about baiting a hook with slimy shrimp and casting for hours on end with very few nibbles. honestly, we can hardly call ourselves fishermen at all. but we really enjoy being out on the ocean, cruising and checking out the sights on a warm, sunny day.

the weather was perfect; the fishing was not. four (out of six) people cast their lines repeatedly for five hours and only one person—my lucky husband—caught anything. he reeled in four fish—two 17-inch spotted sea trout and two redfish.

not many fish in the sea near us, but plenty of brown and white pelicans circled on the air currents above out heads and did take-offs and landings in the sanibel bayou wetlands. they, too, were looking for fish; they, too, moved on when they didn't spot any.

on our way back toward the sanibel causeway, the ocean in front of us filled up with breaching bottlenose dolphins. dorsal fins were everywhere. clarence, our captain, noted that a few of the dolphins were rolling on their sides near the surface of the water. that's a female breeding behavior. (dolphin love occurs all year but can peak in the spring.) and then, after entertaining us for ten minutes, they were gone.

and so were we. back on dry land again we were ready for a late lunch and a few beers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


a clock ticks cracking ice
shadows & keyholes stamped on the walls.
i hobble a memorized route
along the corridor on a foot swollen—
puffed like punched-down dough on
the rise—inert, useless.

running mice in the frame of the house
are pulling threads out of my old socks
& reweaving them into cushy
nests, winding the colored strands in and out

of tissue tufts, hair, dog fur & dryer lint for their cold
hairless newborns hidden deep within the timbers
behind the piano. i wait for
no one, go nowhere & dark shapes
fall away as the sun squints
& i open my eyes & yawn.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

island syllables

a few words spoken, or unspoken—but always in my head—during the lazy winter vacation days on sanibel. i'm in maine again, but recalling these simple syllables will keep me warm for a long time:

barefoot       lazy
waves          sunrise
iced tea        oysters
hibiscus         beer
sunset          SPF
crabs            sand
towel           waves
starfish         breezy
salty             iced water
pelicans       palm trees
waves          dolphins
swimming    tide
fish              calamari
reading         fishing 
seashells      waves
barbecue      laughter
herons          ibis
green            blue
sighs             happy
sunshine       waves
surf               walking
tide pools      sweatshirt
family           together
flip-flops     ocean     

Monday, January 23, 2012

into the teeth of the sea

i look back to where my mother set up our beach chairs. the hot sand is covered with a sea of colorful striped beach umbrellas. our own red, yellow and green umbrella is out there somewhere, but i can't find it. they all look the same to me. (one day—could it have been this day?—i got lost on the beach amidst all those confusing stripes, but my mother found me before i wandered too far away from our place on the sand.)

i squeeze my mother's hand. i am so little. one of my earliest memories is this day at the beach. we are walking toward the water, toward the waves. don't let go of my hand. don't let go of my hand. i am thinking those words. do i say them to her?

it seems as if we have been walking for a long time. i am tired. i notice the curvy lines the mollusk-filled, lettered olive shells create, leaving wet sand messages just like i do with a stick. i am sweaty and i want to cool off in the ocean. suddenly i see the waves. they are huge and frothy, white and noisy. my mother senses i am nervous so she encourages me by leaning down, looking into my eyes, and smiling.

"the waves are fun, you'll see. i'll lift you over them and you'll be flying along the water like a dolphin. you'll be at home in the sea like a starfish or a seahorse. and i promise i won't ever let you go," she says.

i am afraid the first time i meet the monster's foaming mouth, the waves like teeth noisily chomping at me—i wonder how hungry is the sea?—ready to snatch me up and swallow me down as i foolishly wade straight into them. a big one, a real soaker, gets me, throws its big mouth over my head trying to devour me, but my mother never lets go.

that was long ago and this is today. today i have no fear of the sea, i have only a deep, unquenchable longing for its beauty, its seductive power, its vast wildness. as much as the sea changes, turning by degrees from calm to roaring, rolling, churning, it also remains the same, an endless, comforting, back and forth—a sea time shuffle across the shore. i like that.

when i am on the island i open the sliding doors to welcome the sound and the smell of the sea into the house. the waves no longer look scary, but instead have turned into broad, toothy grins smiling up at me. the sea rushes in and does not attempt to eat me up, but greets me kindly and fills me to overflowing with peace.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

excerpt on a clothesline

dealing with a constant barrage of dirty clothes is a universal human activity except, of course, for some lucky people in remote, tropical places who don't have to wear any clothes at all. in the warm weather it can be an inspiring sight to see a colorful (or not) display of drying laundry (ok i'll speak for myself.... i, at any rate, am a little weirdly inspired to ponder laundry) perching and flapping on lines like some sort of unusual upside down bird (bat?) species, especially when the garments are hung in an innovative manner. grab a pair of binoculars—only kidding—and take a look.

laundry on clotheslines puts the personal on display. it is both interesting and startling to see someone's belongings, often intimate belongings, draped and exposed out-of-doors for everyone to behold. after all, people inhabit and bring to life these otherwise innocuous bits of fabric—they work in them, play in them, sleep, love, die in them. clothes really make up a great part of who people are; personalities can be detected in them. are they bargain basement threads, ones with brand names—amazing that some people will only shop for very specific brands and no others—or ones with fancy designer labels sewn inside?

i always seem to be doing laundry, even with just the two of us at home, and the dirty clothes really start to pile up after we've been away for a while. there's the laundry i should have done before we left but didn't, and now there's the laundry from our trip that's falling out of our suitcases and backpacks onto the floor—and i even washed clothes while we were away. where does it all come from?

why do our clothes seem to get dirty so quickly, and are they, in fact, really that dirty—like we're lumberjacks, farmers, car mechanics or lobstermen or something....those people have a good reason for all their truly dirty clothes—or are we just too tidy or too picky about our clothes? a little obsessive/compulsive clean?

well, i think (hope) we're just typical/normal clean people. anyway, i have to stop now and throw in a load.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

salty breathless love

solitary beach—for now. winter vacation. full moon, setting. chilly.
hoodie zipped up, hands stuffed in pockets. walk quickly to stay warm.
prevent the nippy air from wiggling through the outer layers, creeping
crawling, sneaking in. dawn. orbs, orbs, orbs.
one orb setting, another rising. panting now.
warming, yes. stop. take a picture. this is exactly—
untouched, no tinkering with nature—what the lens saw:
surrounded by reds, a melted butter sun pouring out a bright path
across the dark water as if to say this is the way.

stoop. pick up a seashell, a cross-barred venus.
then others: lightning whelk, angel wing. mysterious forms
touching my fingers, what's lying at my feet now, and tomorrow—
here there is no time, only tide, a low full moon tide—
horseshoe crabs, starfish, heart-shaped cockles, elegant yet
exuding elemental salt, pungent as morning breath and body odor
year after year left by the sea, they, no longer alive yet beautiful; they,
bearing the story of the waves, the sand
—they, breathlessly telling.

Monday, January 16, 2012

the small still life of snowflakes and pears

fat wet snowflakes dawdle down from the planet's heavenly rooftop as if taking their time, stalling, delaying their inevitable earthly fate—contact with the ground—where each flake will one day melt, evaporate, disappear.

it is both true and false that every snowflake is unique—true for the large complex crystals composed of a multitude of molecules stacked and connected in all directions—snap, click like so many invisible lego bricks—and occasionally false for the small, simple snowflakes which may, on occasion, boast an identical twin.

as for the totality of snowflakes which have fallen to earth over eons of time—what an unfathomable, unknowable number!—amazingly, no two large ones could ever—ever—have been identical—the number of molecule combinations borders on the infinite, making duplication almost an impossibility.

and as for a display of pears in a bowl near a sunny window in winter, the discussion comes down to this: these piled up fruit lean in like eager, big-bellied, pear-shaped women bearing irresistible secrets and about-to-fall-off-the-tip-of-the-tongue gossip; hear them? they seem to be saying do tell.

the dots, lines and bumps that light up the patterns on their lush flesh, the rise and fall of shadows within the warm clefts of their skin—one-of-a-kind.

do you see? snowflakes all over again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


you fondle each jewel before you pick up the pen containing archival ink. you sigh. you once were the reigning queen of movieland but today you sit on a velvet settee in front of an antique writing table and slowly flex your arm and fingers preparing to make another label. a maid could easily do this for you but you resist the idea.

the truth is you like writing the little tags. your handwriting is exquisite and you're glad that the schoolgirl years of laboriously copying the palmer method of penmanship—the flourishes, embellishments, ornamental details—have finally come in handy.

one diamond tiara. tiffany, 1973.

one diamond choker. bulgari, 1959.

one sapphire ring. cartier, 1967.

one strand of opera pearls. cartier, 1985.

and on and on, labels for all the pieces of jewelry you have acquired over the years.

with your insatiable thirst for jewels you are like a pirate sailing the seven seas in search of more booty. how many decades worth of treasure have you hidden away in chests and boxes, one or two pieces in each, each adorned with its own meticulously handwritten card?

you stop working on a 2010 label. a little smile sparkles on your lips. you are thinking about when you will be handed your last script—the script for life's final role—when you must lie still as dirt in peaceful repose in your casket and you are pleased when you imagine your collection of jewels and how they will also lie peacefully in theirs.