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“Slipping around in the ashes.”

I heard myself say it to a friend yesterday.  I hadn’t been aware that I’d burned down the farm. But when I heard myself say it—  Saw the image in my mind, where the phrase came from—  Recognized the familiar feeling of being lost, then found in the stark gaze of it—  I got it.

In a springtime post, I described getting naked, stripping down Story Charmer to see what’s there, what’s mine, what’s not, to find out what gets restored, what departs after clearing out, getting real. Hell, finding real. Every so often, it’s good to check if the pulse still beats in the right places of one’s purpose. Turns out naked is smoking hot.

Barn’s burned down

After I said it, I paused. Thought. Yes. I’d burned down the farm. The smoke’s no longer rising. I can see past the skeleton structures, blackened, the cleared out pieces of them fallen, returning to earth.

*That’s* where those went. Huh. 

And then… I can plant a garden in that spot there.

And… Look at the sky leaning in so closely here, where before it tucked behind that tree…the tree is gone.

Fertile flames

In California, elements of the chaparral are designed to be more fertile once burned. In one of my life’s big transitions, I’ve returned home to California from Portland. Lush, liquid, evergreen Portland, Oregon. To desert heat, ocean wind, fleecy golden hills, eternal spring. And fires so familiar I’d forgotten how they burn.

Story Charmer has yet to get dressed. The closet burned down too. But the view. It’s clear and getting clearer. It’s simple as dirt and sky. And as life-bringing.


Photo by Chris Bennett 





Five leaf clover



Random acts of artness

God? Is that you?



October 6, 2010

I’m trying something new: Coming Home.

It’s mathematical. On average, I move cities every year-and-a-half. At the 18-month mark in Portland, I tripped off to the Lilith tour with every intention of coming home. Headed out to cross two nations of cities, people, wide open arms and a summer of adventure…it was like telling an alcoholic sex addicted lover, “Hey, Sugar, there’s a party of boozy high class hookers next door. You go enjoy yourself. I’m calling it a night.”

I went next door with the hookers.

For three months. I leapt into the swirl of a concert tour and traveled around the nation with artists, entrepreneurs, big-hearts and crazies. I stayed up all hours, drank whiskey and wine. Ate sandwiches and drank beer. Let down my guard and let flow the girl that never got out when I was younger, serious, toeing the line of everything right, trying to find myself in diligence.

At the end of the tour, I couldn’t call it the end. I stayed in New York a while. And then a while turned into a month longer than I’d meant to stay. Pretty soon, it’s three months since I’ve left Portland, and New York City, a place I’ve called home before, is stroking my hair, whispering in my ear, cradling me in its morning after, asking me sweetly if I really want to leave.

The answer is transient

Today I walked around the place that I left last June and New York is far away. Yellow blossoms are in a pool under the park trees. People are smiling because they’re just nice here. I rolled over in bed this morning and opened my eyes to gray skies and I smiled too. I’m home. I’m in the moody broody weather of the Northwest. I’m back.

Because I’ve moved so much, I have a history of returning home to a lot of places. The end comes. I prepare to leave and wonder if I should stay longer. I have a similar history with lovers, each time silently asking both the city and the lover some variation of: Are you my mother? Are you the home of my heart? Is it you?

The answer is transient. And so I travel, not aware in the middle of the joy of new places, new faces, new me in new context, that I may just fear stagnation, that my evolutionary brain hasn’t yet got the memo that I’m not a shark in the ocean, I don’t have gills, I don’t have to keep moving to survive. I have lungs, that breathe, and take in the place where I am, adding it to the cells that make me, making my place a part of me.

Breaking down home

My last week away, I went to my original home and shipped my Grandma out of hers. After 33 years in her apartment, we packed her up and sent her 99 year old self to my Dad’s. All the memories on her shelves, and the shelves themselves, got dissembled and crammed into the back of a moving truck. I cried as her friends gathered to say goodbye.

Then I went to the beach. To the primordial soup. I laid in the sand fully clothed and felt the sun push through them. I watched the waves.

Am I home? Where is home? Who is home? I am a patchwork of places.

Things I’ve heard myself say since I’ve been back:

Where do I keep the silverware again?
Where does this road go?
There are three new buildings in my view.
My schedule is open.

Familiar and old and new again

My first morning back, my best friend, Regina, met me for coffee in a new place near her house. We were catching up deep and rich when a song came on overhead that I sang to her at our first parting. We were 23 then. She was going away to grad school. It was her farewell party. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome,” Bob Dylan, covered by Shawn Colvin, sung by me. The only people at the party not crying were she and I, because I asked her before I started to keep it dry so I could make it through the song.

Ten years later, at her wedding, I sang “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” in which lyrics feature prominently the sentiment: home). Also Shawn Colvin, covering a Talking Heads tune.

I’m sensing a theme.  Home is where the people who love you live. For me that’s a lot of places. But right now it’s where Regina lives. It’s where my community is, here in Portland, full of creatives and crazies, greenies and nerds, heartbreak and hope and a whole lot of cute boys. And wilderness. And progressive coolness. And my awesome apartment. And the airport, which reaches anywhere. And I-5, which reaches deep into the belly of my home town in Southern California.

I’m trying something new. I’m returning home.