I went home this summer. Didn’t know it was home until much later – that little country I used to live in, burning hot, golden.
Climbing the steps up to her office – it is out on the roof, a room with a view – outside there’s laundry waving in the breeze, and succulent plants and flowers in pots. Farther away, in a fog of summer heat, a city.
I sit down. What is she doing? She says, you don’t need to return to what you where in order to be. She says, whatever happens, do not resist the music.
My grandmother’s face comes up again and again.
I go down the stairs; and I travel, I come back here. But the happiness does not go away. I am light and airy, and even my losses seem translucent and floating, like white laundered blouses drying on a string. I have forgotten how it feels, to live without grief.
I think I have rediscovered wonder in the world.
We went up to Mendocino county – where the people live in houses of stone and wood, and they paint the Big Whale when he comes to the harbor. In a gallery there I saw three pieces of furniture made of maple and ash, and of timbers with old and touchable names. There was a chest of drawers almost as tall as myself, and each drawer would open soundlessly and slide back again. I thought that the maker must have been singing as he polished his piece out of dumb wood and dreams. Where do those come from, I asked, and they told me there was a school in Fort Bragg where you could learn to make furniture without modern machinery. I went at once. In a big room, eight men and one woman were learning about sticks and planes. I breathed in wood dust and heat, and hints of ocean ocean spray, and my yearning and their peace.
Yesterday I walked – wanted to buy some bread from the small bakery I like. It started raining, really pouring, and I walked, for some reason into a botanical nursery. No shelter from the rain; trees and large flowers shivered in their pots, burdened by the water. I saw two weeping cherries, and their bodies curved gracefully, like some dancer’s; I think they will bloom in spring. Near the exit, there was a japanese coral maple. I have never seen a color so pure: translucent bark, like a cool red porcelaine.
I’m getting better at this! I notice more colors & sounds. I watch animals. I draw. I think about the winds. I put words together.
Not all the time, though… it still often feels like there’s a dirty glass between me and the world.
Took up painting again. Some of my guache colors dried up but I revived them with water. I have a new research notebook! It’s bound in red cordovan leather, and I’ve been painting in it for four days straight. It feels good to draw and the pictures cheer me up when I work on my research. I wonder why I never painted in research notebooks before – I think it was fear (of not being taken seriously or not producing a nice enough picture). I think I will go to the city soon to get some ideas for drawings. Pigeons? Sea lions? The Pyramid?
Today I was at the farmers market. I walked between the produce stalls and listened to a thin girl playing the violin. She stopped her music and ate a big strawberry; then continued. I strolled past the wild honey seller and the man with the sunflowers (bigger than my face). I stopped to pick up some tiny organic potatoes. A woman there said she would tell a story about corn; she said that six years ago, her car was broken into -and “they took the melons and the corn on the cob I have bought at the farmers market”, she said, “they didn’t take the stereo”. I filled my bag with japanese eggplants and armenian cucumbers, okra and green onions and peppers. A young woman let me try some of her chinese pears; they looked like apples but heavier, with dark yellow skin and sweet, sweet juice. I was very tired by then, and wandered away. I felt happiness brush by me like a thief of melons.
Once upon a time the world was full of singing colors. That was not so long ago; I remember how sunlight shone through the structures of leaves, and there was warmth in every stone. Cities spoke to me – and one city, looking like a woman in her early thirties, was dressed in a grey-green suit impeccably tailored; her smile was mischievous, and in her eyes I saw the dreamers who came to her, with their dreams sparkling and bizarre and weird and vivid. I remember her asking if I would be one of her dreamers. Anyhow, it is all gone now, my eyes are leeched of color. Too many bad things happened to my loved ones in the last six months: death, despair and sickness. I go on doing my deeply meaningful things, but everything feels like cardboard.