Tuesday, June 29, 2010

birth and death and remembrance

A year ago I posted about my brother David's birthday from Tony & Ali's rural working retreat in the Scottish Highlands. Has it been a year since I was with them? Has it been 43 years since my little brother David was buried on what would have been his 9th birthday? Some well-meaning people have quipped about the number 9 representing "completion." Regardless, I spent my childhood wrapped up in my own confused miseries and never got to know this little guy who I miss so very much today. Here are some photos from then: Click HERE (same link).

I have this sense that we'd be buddies now in middle age. Modern medicine may have chortled at his congenital heart defect, with 21st Century wizardry able to give him the physical hardiness he never had as a child. Was it only 50 years ago that things seemed so draconian? Falling off of a grownup's bike and hitting his head wasn't okay in 1967. I'm heartsick he died.

So where was I those nearly nine years of his life? I turned eleven a month after his death. I have many blank spots where memories of my childhood should live. I remember being unable to be close to him.... did my not-quite-together mother fear her toddler daughter would hurt this fragile newborn? I can't ask her that now. There is a vague memory of a twisted push-pull where I could neither get close to him nor have the forced distance acknowledged as something not of my own making. These were not healthy times.

For the most part we grew up in a split-level apartment. Little David and I shared a bedroom. I can't recall a single conversation. But I have a "feeling tone" memory of him in the same room, and if I made up a story about it, this feeling recalls my brother as an ally. Perhaps that finds me musing that we would be buddies today. Friends.

He is my friend in spirit. I pray for him, my Dad and my mother every day. Sometimes I imagine him grinning at me.

Well, brother David - I'm still kicking around. Let's see what God and I can do with that one. You keep dancing with Him on the Other Side. I miss you and I love you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

you know, traveling is fun

I am visiting with friends here at the Marin Headlands, a glorious spot on the other side of some rocky crags from the Golden Gate Bridge. My friends from Hallelujah Acres in Branson (Missouri) and I did a whirlwind day trip sampling posh raw cuisine and catching up with one another, frequently while making a fairly significant carbon footprint indentation driving all over the local area. What a day! I'd returned from soCal only 36 hours earlier.

It was the beach again, with salty air breezes fluffing our psyches. And yet it didn't have the same ahhhhh as my few times breathing in the southern California ocean air. What is this visceral pull of memories and history?

Whatever it is, it's strong. When I lived in L.A. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Now I cruise through town on a visit, seeing beloveds, smelling the salt air only briefly and I'm singing like a lark. Go figure!

The trip was a joy, an utter joy. One of my DEAREST friends flew down from SEATTLE! and we went to a taping of the Craig Ferguson show in Hollywood. I adore that mad Scot and we both had a ball. I reunited with other friends whom I had not seen in 25 years. I met up with the parents of a high school chum - and had not seen them in over 30 years. The life-and-death wake-up call with my entire being, not just my bone marrow and cancer and all that terrifying stuff but ALL of me.... well, I guess it lets me reach out more and be a bit more engaging. Do ya think? I think.

I visited the graves of my little brother David Jeremiah, who died in 1967, and my father David, who died in 1988. I brought sunflowers since they seem to reach to the sky. I paced, I cried, I talked to them and they seemed to talk back to me. It's my imagination and I'm thankful for it as I am thankful for them.

I'm back in northern Marin County, working at home, looking out my window to Mt. Burdell, watching the birds storm any of my three feeders. Glowering at the squirrels. Egging myself on to jog or Rebound since, I am loathe to admit, I can be a bit lazy. This trip was an absolute gift from God. I pray that as the giddy bubbles calm to whatever resembles normalcy, I continue to thank my Lord.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I miss my father

I'm in L.A., staying on the Westside, not 2-1/2 miles from the oceanfront apartment building in which I for the most part grew up (deliberate double entendre). I can't even tell if my little brother David had been born yet - I think not. I was two when he was born and I'm so little here.

My mother Helen is on the left and my father David is holding me, proud as proud can be. I was his first child, my mother's second. And yes, until I was 5 years old, I was blonde!

I drive these streets and cry. Not all the time. But I am struck grieving the loss of my father who died in 1988 after being shattered by a massive stroke in 1987. I was 3 months sober. He never spoke again after that. I never recorded his voice or begged him for stories of his childhood that he never offered. He lost his parents and siblings to a Nazi death camp in WWII, a handful of years after having come by himself to America to live with and work for an uncle in NYC. He never spoke of his family. Once I wrote down their names. That was all he would say.

I've cried even from the Central Coast, from the bliss joys of the oceanfront in Pismo Beach, missing my beloved father. Cherishing my father. Thanking God for the man who raised me as best he could and for whom I pray every night. Mom will be another blog entry; this one is for my Dad.

I'm seeing people I love, many of whom I haven't seen in yonks. I adore where I live now in northern Marin County - I love my Church community, my friends, the glories of nature. This - southern California - is where I grew up. There is a visceral tug that stuns me, from the Westside to the South Bay. I turn another corner and think of my father.

--->HERE<--- are PHOTOS of my Journey so far. Click and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

oh dear, it's the paparazzi again....

I have a delightful tale to share with you that could well be apropos of nothing save for the size of this wonderful world and the threads that connect us. That's good enough right there, don't you think?

Those faithful and devoted readers of my inane burblings might recall a recent post - it was April 15th, to be exact - that featured a photo of a chubby baby seal in a yogic ballet pose on the shore of a German beach.

I took it upon myself to spirit the image off the web from the SFGate "Day in Pictures." And I fell in love with this seal. I have him in my iPhone photo album. He's even on the wall of my Chapel Office (you know, printed out on plain paper), sandwiched between my icons of Jesus and His Blessed Mother and my views of Mount Burdell. I'm a sap, okay? A rip roaring, goofball sap. This image stole my heart. My little buddy!


So one day I Googled "photo of seal in Germany." That would be good for, oh, 4000 hits, do ya think? Yes I do. By page 4 or 5, I found another website with the photo credit I'd initially failed to jot down. There he is! And I wanted to say THANK YOU. So I Googled "Axel Heimken Germany" and found a glorious photographic website (click on the word "website" and I'll take you there). In German, of course. I scrolled and scrolled. I didn't find my adored pudgy hammock but I could see that this WAS the right artistry. And I found a page where I could leave an email. Again, it's in German and I don't speak a word. (OK, danke - guten Tag - that's it). "Kontact" looked close enough. And I did; I said "Thank you."

And you know, he wrote back. And he asked if I'd like a copy of the seal photo in high res. I offered to pay and he said, "No." And he sent me two more! The second of those is featured here along with the original shot. In high res, of course.

I asked him how he got the shot. That face, that sweet face! Axel wrote, "It's quite simple to take good pictures from the seals - they are residents on a small island in the North Sea at the German coast.

You just have to wait ... when they come out from the water to reach their 'chill out places ' they do this with funny moves. If you take a long lens (they are very shy and won't come out of the water when you are too close) you'll be able to get good pictures.

Thanks again that you recognized my work!"

Is he a lovely man or what? I had visions of some stuffy international AP photographer who'd barely find the time to sneer at my gushing coos. While I shuffled my feet and said that initially I'd just taken the shot off the web, I did ask his permission to quote him here. There's denial and then there are decent manners. Perhaps if I am graced to grow older, I'll exhibit more of the latter than the former.

So go ahead, have a look at his website. He's amazingly gifted. I'd pondered becoming a pro photographer before I went in another direction, one not entirely detached from demon alcohol at the time. Let's see - pro photographer or musician in a bar band? It's hard to have a grip on a creative calling, connection with a God of one's understanding or even common sense when one is practicing a really unforgiving disease.

I needed to get sober and thanks be to GOD that I did and am today.

Grateful to be alive and sober is what I say in meetings. I am exuberantly thankful to the Lord for both!