Hola Del Cabo

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I haven’t been blogging much lately, one reason being eight weeks of an arm cast complete with pins, which were all recently and successfully removed.  And then I got on a plane for Cabo with one goal: enough daily physical therapy to remind my immobilized arm and fingers how to work and play with friends once more.

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So far, so good.

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So blue and beautiful.

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All the news of home we read is extreme: the Polar Vortex, according to the weatherman. and ‘life threatening temperatures.’    One more day of warmth…                                                                        Another reason I haven’t been posting much is that I want to do longer, deeper pieces, but in this environment, there’s nothing more exciting than the temperature, whale sightings, fresh fish, healing, water ten times a day, a little shopping in the charming village of San Jose del Cabo.  Not very eventful, except perched up on this mountaintop in an infinity pool, literally hanging off the edge of Mother Earth’s nether regions in southern Baja, I sometimes imagine the possibility of an earthquake, even a little quiver set off by an innocent sneeze. I don’t stay there long in my mind because it’s a little too relaxing here, but as you read these words, you must know the fragility of life is never forgotten by me.

To Phillip

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Phillip Seymour Hoffman: 46

Today is a sad one, a terrible tragedy for a family, a loss for the world of film and theater.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is no longer in the land of the living.

The news of his untimely death made me ask  what it is that put him at the top of my list of favorite actors.  True, he had a wonderfully rich voice and could transform himself to almost any character with his extreme talent.  But the thing that touched my core was his willingness to be vulnerable, to be ugly, to play the pathetic, vile and cruel, yet with a huge and dignified humanity, to be seen as weak, to be the most tender.  It took great courage to expose that range and depth of feeling, to stand on the edge of an emotional cliff that most people avoid.

On his street late this afternoon, blocked off by police barricades, fans swarmed in tomb like silence.  I brought a bouquet of flesh-colored  tulips to leave at the front of his building, but forlornly carried them home and put them in a vase.  I often saw him in the neighborhood.  Once a big force, he’s left a gaping, palpable hole.  Oh, Phillip, here’s to your big-hearted talent.  May you rest in peace, may your family find comfort.

Fragments on the Bones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got bones on the brain, a cast on my arm, nothing to do but forensically comb through buried memories of the subject of bones.  Winter with broken bones seems apt.  Every stark landscape, the bare trees, frost on windows, they all remind me of bones, bones, bones…

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Still in Missouri in the early eighties, I was visiting St. Louis with Martin Griffin.  He’d quickly pulled the car over in an impoverished neighborhood at a tire shop made of faded black tar paper draped like aging skin over a wooden frame.  The outside of the building was encrusted with chrome plated steel discs, made from an array of hub caps from decades of different cars.  “Folk art,” Martin said as he left the car with his Nikon around his neck.

When Martin wasn’t back in the few minutes I assumed it would take, I fished out a current copy of The New Yorker from my purse and read a short article before I realized how long I’d been waiting for his return.

When he plopped in the driver’s seat, he reported that the guy who owned the shop came outside.  An older African-American in oily overalls, he demanded that Martin get off his property.  Martin convinced him that he admired the creative spectacle of his garage and they engaged in a playfully antagonistic conversation that ended with the old man saying, “You know, when you die, your skin is going to turn as black as mine.”  And Martin answered, “Yeah, and when you die and there’s no skin left at all, your bones will be as white as mine.”

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It wasn’t until I was an adult before I gave the bones much thought.  They have little symbolism here but great significance in other cultures.  I remember a character from Gabriel Garcia Marquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude, who carries the bones of deceased loved ones around in heavy suitcases.  It made such an impact, all these years later, it’s the only thing from the book I recall with any clarity.  Travels in Mexico introduced me to Day of the Dead, which is actually three days that begin at midnight on October 31st.  Miniature skeletons are on display, for sale all over that colorful country: skeletons cooking, wearing wedding gowns and top hats, dancing, children skeletons playing, sleeping, doing all the same activities of those still going through life in flesh and blood.  For The Day of the Dead, an altar is set up for the spirits to visit their loved ones.  It’s a festival of  communication and celebration of one’s ancestors.  In Mexico, the skeleton brings life and death together as one.  In the United States, it symbolizes death and is something to fear.

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Rather than wait for my mother;s ashes to be delivered, my sister Melanie I drove directly to the crematorium to retrieve them before our flight back to New York. It was a crisp southern Missouri February day. The weight of her life on my lap in the front seat of the car was so real, I had to place her behind me. It didn’t seem right to leave her alone back there, but the dense gallon size cardboard box of ash and crushed bone was more than I could bear.  It screamed of a larger than life woman with huge impact on those who crossed her flaming path, and every ounce of the remaining box said ‘This is what’s left of your mother.’  It was considerable, yet dead.

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As an avenue to entwining these fragments on the subject of bones, I read that the DNA in the bones is destroyed by cremation.  They represent so much more than calcium and marrow that stand and move as a living armature: they contain information, are formed by, and inform the life we lead.  Case in point: The Cheddar Man, a 9,000 year old skeleton discovered in a cave in 1903 in southern England, and it turns out his DNA was perfectly intact. Ninety years later, researchers analyzed a tooth from his head and found a maternal strain that matched a living school teacher in the area.  They weren’t exactly a tribe of nomads.

Blithely making it through a tomboy-tree-climbing-childhood without breaking any bones, I remember twinges of jealousy when a peer came to school in a cast.  It was a badge of honor.  And all the sympathy and signatures that came with the condition…  Fortunately, that was then and this is now and now demands consideration.

Turning to Revelations for a New Millennium by Andrew Ramer for enlightenment, there is a chapter on the symbol of the major bones of the body.  The arms represent expression of creativity and intention.  The ulna is the Creative Measure bone and the radial is the bone of Creative Expression.  As I type one handed, both those bones are in the miraculous process of mending while I dig deep to make sense out of a fall on the ice on an upstate country road.  I’m getting there, forming theories as I do all the things to encourage cellular growth: energy work, imaging straight, elegant, lovely bones that serve the rest of my precious life and times.

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Embers of the Night

It was Christmas season, more than half my life ago, when I met Ruby Flame at a party held in a rickety Victorian House of some local swingers.  I didn’t know much about the hosts at the time, would find out the hard way in the not too distant future.  That’s a whole other story belonging in the annuls of the Never-To-Be-Written, yet it plays into this one.  There weren’t many places a drag queen, Ruby in this case, was free to dress in full regalia in the mid 1970’s of Springfield, Missouri.

For the festive Christmas gathering, I donned a full length silk-screened, vintage red and green floral dress, slinky and custom-made for a fashion plate in the 1930’s.  My dark hair was pulled into a tight chignon.  When Ruby introduced herself, there stood my opposite.  Much shorted and proportionately heavier than I, she was squeezed into a fuzzy white mini dress, a long blonde wig, a tight collar of tinkling gold Christmas tree balls, and make-up that burned brighter than any light I’d ever seen in a human being.  We latched onto each other like two flickering embers, and ignited.  Before saying goodnight, I was invited to photograph Ruby’s next make-up session for her appearance at an underground performance/gay bar.

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Her make-up artist received my friend and I the day of the shoot just as Ruby finished a shower.  We scanned the messy room and waited for the queen to appear.  Shirtless and stripped down to jeans, had I been anywhere but in her house. I would not have recognized Ruby in Billy, her given name.  Ruby had an energy field of a rocket ship leaving the launch pad, and Billy was plain as yoghurt.  He sat with his back facing me, did not look into my eyes, and spoke only to the wall in front of him.

As the eyes were drawn on, Billy’s quiet voice morphed into Ruby’s lower octaves.  But when the lips were applied, Billy left the room.  Gone.  Watching this transformation was like a magic act, with all the tricks on the table.  But more importantly, was the recognition of Billy’s plight. Never having thought of it before, I knew I could be and do whatever I felt like any time or day or night, within reason.  But shy Billy, with an invisible job, a ghostly life in a time and place of non-acceptance, could never be fully alive in the light of day.  Ruby lived like a spy of the night, fleeing from one after-hours unknown club to another as the Mistress of Ceremonies with a heart of bursting magnitude, and a  passion for life to be carried out in only the darkest caves.

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Ruby and I maintained loose contact and I always asked after her with mutual friends.  A couple of years after our initial meeting, someone casually told me Ruby was no longer with us, her flame consumed by her own hand.  For days that lead to months, I wondered Why, why, why, Ruby?

To many, especially in big cities, drag queens are part of our cultural landscape, an acceptable creative expression.  But all these years later, I continue to think of her appearance and disappearance as equally dynamic: eye-opening to say the least.  In my mind, Ruby sits on par with film stars who die young, beautiful, and forever remain that way in the public’s conscience: puer aeternus, eternal boy, or puella aeterna, the girl’s version.  Ruby, a girl who existed only on stage, was just as much Billy, a young, invisible boy.

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I’ll remember you always.

Official Announcement

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As I sit perched upstairs at The Ledge on a snowy day,  contemplating the close of another year, I know in my bones it’s time to announce a change in my blog.   Photos and short lines of poetic prose have served Wild Nature well, but as a writer of a certain age who has so many stories inside, I want to write more.  That means upcoming short pieces with only a photo or two.  The challenge in this change is finding the balance of brevity and juicy depth that keep me as a writer and my readers engaged, yet not overwhelmed.  So now I’ve said it out loud with the intention to begin soon…with a Christmas party story where I met Ruby Flame, a drag queen in the early 80′s: Springfield, Missouri.                                    Thanks to all of you for the inspiration to keep it new.

One Post, All Cliche’s

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The past couple of weeks have been gnarly.

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It’s been hard to see the forest for the trees.

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I’ve been spinning my wheels,

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A mere shadow, blown way out of proportion.

Thanksgiving came and went.  I kept reading other blogger’s posts about what they were thankful for and didn’t want to do the same thing.  Plus, I was having technical issues that my dear friend Jason Miers graciously supported me through (this piece will be another test) and I felt only capable of going through the motions of thankfulness.  But I was not really really feeling it.  And then I remembered (once again) that gratitude is what makes the difference between a happy and an unhappy life.   My list of blessings is long and full of sweet cliché’s.  However, I will name one gratitude way out loud:  I am really thankful for my readers as I muddle through these musings in Wild nature, trying to capture and connect through what it means to be a human being.  I sincerely thank you all.

Our Unisphere

As the world came together in the wake of the typhoon, a fog of grief for the people and homes lost to the highest winds ever recorded left me limp, without language, and unable to write a frivolous phrase.

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There have always been natural disasters, but veiled by commerce, war, and an exploding population,

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The earth requires great consideration In order to support the vast life upon it.

IMG_6477She holds every one of us, our children, our dogs, our trees, our food, water, and reflected back to us is what we do and are not doing.IMG_6449

In the name of our Unisphere, we must come together to do more.