Sunday, May 31, 2020

DISCOVERING LAGUNA BEACH

After our 25th anniversary in the blue ambiance of Dana Point, we decided we would go slightly north to Laguna Beach. We stayed in a hotel just across Pacific Coast Highway, but our room had a balcony that overlooked the ocean and it included an in-room jacuzzi for two. We got there late in the afternoon and discovered one of the advantages of Laguna Beach, which was an abundance of restaurants serving many kinds of cuisine, and most of them could be reached by walking.  We could choose a restaurant, have a good walk before dinner, and even if we had had a couple of drinks we could manage to find our way back to the hotel without worrying about which of us would be the designated driver.
Laguna Beach is a wonderful place for walking, although it is hilly in town, but there is so much to see wherever you go, whether on the beach or along Pacific Coast Highway or one of the side streets which are also filled with interesting stores and restaurants, juice bars and candy stores.  We walked along the beach every day, after we'd read our love letters to each other. We'd talk about our relationship and our parenting as well as making plans and dreaming of our future together.  Occasionally we would bring one of our talks for an upcoming World Wide Marriage Encounter Weekend that we were scheduled to give, and it was easier for me to write or revise it when I wasn't under the gun to get it done in the midst of the chaos almost inevitable in raising six children.  
We also walked in town, usually in the morning, but if it was foggy, we'd wait until later, on our way to find a bite of lunch or to check out some of the restaurants that were in the hotel listings. I had such a sense of freedom as we walked together, holding hands, with no feeling of being rushed and nothing particular to do other than decide where to go for dinner.  The one time we took the car out was Sunday morning when we went to Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Church. This church was named for our daughter Catherine's patron saint, so we were very fond of the church from the beginning. We went there every year and one of the priests turned out to be someone we knew from the nearby St. Michael's Abbey, a Norbertine Monastery. It was nice to have that connection when we were away from home.
I always loved arriving in Laguna Beach and opening up our windows so we could feel the ocean breeze blow its salty fragrance over us.  Wherever we walked we could smell it, and at least one of the evenings, we ate at a restaurant with an ocean view.  For someone who grew up in Texas and Oklahoma and who had never seen the ocean until I was thirteen--and then it was the Atlantic--it always seemed exotic and I gulped up the ocean air as if had come in from the desert and were dying of thirst. In the early years of our stays we even talked of retiring to Laguna Beach. Much later I realized that while I loved the sea air and the crash of the waves on the beach, by Monday of Memorial Day Weekend I was always reminded that you could never turn off the tide, it would be coming in forever, and that while I loved it for our getaway, I preferred our inland home where we didn't have to contend with the marine layer most mornings, but could count on sunshine most of the year.  It was lovely to make our escape to Laguna Beach, but there truly is no place like home.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

THE FIRST WEEKEND AWAY

Now that it is the long weekend--Memorial Day--that unofficially opens summer, I thought I would reflect on the Memorial Day weekends that Wes and I shared from our 25th Anniversary until our last anniversary before he died.  We had thought of going to Santa Barbara that first year that we could get away for more than one night. Our oldest daughter Elizabeth was married and she and her husband offered to stay with the younger ones so we could spend some time together alone. But when we thought of the drive and the traffic, especially with the constant construction that always seemed to surround Santa Barbara, we decided on Dana Point, which was only about an hour away.  It was a quaint oceanside town and we stayed in a bed and breakfast named for one of the many Lantern streets that were perpendicular to the Pacific Coast Highway which ran through town.  Dana Point must have had some local legislation that required every building to be a shade of blue.  In future years, every time we drove through Dana Point, we noticed the long stretch of blue along the highway. (Until one year, after I lost my beloved husband, my son and I stopped in Dana Point for coffee, and I realized that the town was no longer blue. There were one or two places with the old color, but bright colors--even orange--had broken out all over PCH!) The room where we stayed in Dana Point's blue days had a balcony that looked out over the ocean, and I was painting a triptych for a water color class that was due when we got back. We walked down to the beach on Saturday morning and discovered it was a long walk, and the beach was covered in rocks, so we didn't spend much time there but discovered a Peruvian restaurant where I remember I had blue potatoes, which I guess were a Peruvian specialty. Although I wonder now if the potatoes had to be blue as well as the architecture!
Our room was quite romantic, and every room there had a stuffed black bear which you could buy. My beloved's mother had given us some money to buy something while we were away, so I persuaded him to buy the bear for us, and I still have it.  By then he was accustomed to my quirks in gift-buying. I can remember when we were first dating that for one gift occasion I bought him an adorable stuffed koala bear.  His younger brother asked me why on earth I had bought that, and I told him I thought it was cute and that he would like it.  I can't remember if he actually told me that he thought it was a stupid idea, but he certainly gave me that impression.  I shrugged it off at the time, and my beloved accepted it graciously, but many years later when we were involved in World Wide Marriage Encounter, one of the leader couples came up with the idea of the "Platinum Rule."  The Golden Rule was "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  The Platinum Rule, which was especially helpful in marriage, was "Do unto others as they would have you do  unto them!"  We found this to be true and it was certainly borne out when we started giving Love Language Weekends and discovered that in very few cases do husbands and wives have the same love language.  So a wife might want her husband to tell her how much he appreciates the delicious dinner she has cooked for him.  But if words of affirmation are not his love language, but acts of service, he might not say anything about the dinner, but will do the dishes for her.  She might barely notice that he's done the dishes and put the children to bed, because she's hurt or angry that he couldn't be bothered to thank her! And if she gives him a compliment, he will barely register what she has said, because she left the family room a mess and he just stepped on a Lego with his bare foot.
However, our love tanks were filled that weekend with quality time alone together, our walks along the beach and in town, romantic dinners each night, and a chance to catch up on sleep for the first time in years.  Wes enjoyed reading and I finished my triptych, which being water color was challenging.  Just as I thought I had completed the middle panel, I let a drop of quinacridone red fall onto the watercolor paper.  There is no way in water color painting to wipe out a bright fuchsia blob on a white background.  Fortunately, it fell just below a branch of bougainvillea that I had painted, and I was able to turn it into another bougainvillea blossom so successfully that I couldn't now tell you which one it was. On Monday, we packed up the bear, the triptych, and everything else we'd brought and headed home, refreshed by our time away from home, more deeply in love, and hoping to go away for our anniversary every year!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A LONG WEEKEND

It's interesting that I started to title this blog post "The Long Weekend," but then realized that that carried a sense of a weekend that drifts into Monday, like Memorial Day Weekend, with overtones of vacation, and this weekend has been anything but that.  I signed up for Jeff Walker's Product Launch Formula Live conference that is on Zoom from Friday at 8 AM Pacific Daylight Time until about 5 PM all three days. This means I have had to get up at 5 AM each day so I can squeeze in just under an hour of horn practice before the day gets started.  Although I bought the Product Launch Formula program several years ago, I only watched a few modules, so this is a full immersion experience. Jeff Walker has been doing this for 11 years, and it was scheduled for Orlando this year, until the pandemic swept over the globe. I wouldn't have gone if I'd had to fly to Florida, so it was a great chance for me to experience it from home.
I filled up my Launch book with ideas for launching my book, Spectacular Marriage, and met in the speakers and the breakout rooms people who represented almost every niche one could think of from all around the world,
from farriers to corset makers, from Australia to Zimbabwe. Everyone seemed to be passionate about their particular power as well as learning to make money while doing it.  Being on Zoom for three long days was very intense; today even on the lunch break, I just switched to my family Zoom to check in with my daughters and their families. I'm glad I was able to move my dream to share my book several steps closer, but I'm also looking forward to getting back out in the sunshine and munching on fresh mulberries during what remains of the day.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

REVISING THE CHAPBOOK AT LAST

On Thursday, I had my first call with my current coaching program, and let everyone know that the revision I hope to do on my chapbook, "Portal of Light," is awaiting my daughter/critic's comments. Since, due to the shelter in place requirements, she is now homeschooling 5 children and juggling a two year old as well, I thought it might be a long time before she was able to give me her next round of suggestions.  However, that very afternoon, she called and told me that she had several pages of critique and would send them to me before Sunday, when we will be able to get together (in the back yard) for the first time since we all went into quarantine.  She sent them off, and I looked over her comments, noting that she had removed some of my favorite sections from the chapbook.  I called her to make sure that they weren't just parts that I hadn't yet added, and, sadly, they were deliberate cuts.  So we'll have to hash those out when we get together (although one of the poems she removed was one that I already agreed didn't go with the overall direction of the chapbook).
In addition, she listed all the various quotes from Song of Songs that she thought should be included. She used a different translation, so we'll have to look at those side by side.  I copied them all from my translation (the Anselm Academic Study Bible) so we can compare them.  
I felt very humbled that she had taken so much time on my chapbook, when I know she has so much else happening, but she said that she thought the best gift she could give me for Mother's Day were her comments, and she is so right!
Today (Mother's Day), she and her whole family came over to my house, and although we didn't hug one another, it made such a difference to see them all in real life!  The children played soccer and badminton and basketball with their father while Mary and I went over all her suggestions for changes in "Portal of Light." I realized again how insightful and analytical she is, how she can see things in the chapbook and in my poetry that were mostly subconscious when I was writing it.  I agreed with her suggestions to remove certain of the poems, because they didn't really fit the structure of the chapbook overall, although I fought longer for the "Ziggurat" section.  But she eventually carried the point that it was a static section, that didn't move the chapbook forward--it can be a poem that stands on its own--and only the last section, which takes place on mountain paths, should stay.  
Once we had the overall structure of the chapbook rearranged, then we looked at her comments on individual sections. I still have some narrative parts to write although I don't think they will be as long as the section I wrote on Theresa.  But each time we meet, or talk over the phone about the chapbook, I see where I need to go more clearly; the structural bones appear, the framework rises and the entire chapbook becomes more coherent and luminous.  Although I miss my poet mentor who died a few years ago, I think that only Mary could have sharpened the focus of this chapbook in the way that she has, and I am deeply grateful to her.  
And now, I've got to go work on all the things she told me!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

INTO MAY

The first three days of May have begun with the traditional Southern California "May gray," which next month will become "June gloom." This designates foggy mornings that usually evaporate into sunshine but they are dreary beginnings although they also usually mean that the days will be cooler than in  later months as summer comes in, hot and dry.  True to form, the sun came out casting dappled shade on the brick patio beneath the grapevines.  As I walked around the yard I noticed how growth has accelerated although the exuberant April rains have ended.  The blossoms are almost gone on the orange trees, and I have to go out every day to gather the oranges that the crows have knocked down before they can puncture them for their breakfast or lunch.  There are still some blossoms on the grapefruit tree, and more on the lemon tree, but the black marauders leave that fruit alone.
The weeping mulberry trees are covered in fruit that is just beginning to turn pink from green, but it won't be ripe until it is a deep purple, probably in June. When it is, I go out every morning and eat mulberries until my mouth and fingers are dyed a deep aubergine. 
I picked the first peaches today--they aren't quite ripe but should ripen indoors, and I can see that a bird or two is checking just as I am.  The apricot tree also has tiny fruit--last year we had our first real harvest in the 35 years we've lived here.  The fruit was bite size, but delicious.  
I only managed to get two sugar snap peas to sprout this year, and I'm not sure they'll get to maturity before it's too hot. But I did plant four tomato plants just before we had the deluge of rain, and they all appear to be growing and blossoming with a future harvest seeming possible.
I am thankful the fruit seems to come with a minimum of labor, except for fighting off the birds, and I usually don't mind them taking a small percentage.  It's the raccoons that ravage the grapes and I've never figured out a way to defeat them.  
I used to spend hours every day in the garden, from the year when we bought our first house, and I had to have a neighbor tell me what was coming up in the middle of the yard (crocuses), and in what appeared to be a garden and flower beds (daffodils, hyacinths and tulips).  The couple who lived in the house before us in New Jersey had planted hundreds of bulbs on our half acre, and I added to them every year that we were there, and those flowers are what I miss most about living on the East Coast.  They were the ones in evidence when I was at Monet's gardens in Giverny last April, and it was a heavenly afternoon.
Although I miss the spectacular color of my spring garden in New Jersey, I don't think that I could ever give up the astonishing fragrance of the orange blossoms here. They are tiny white flowers, but I try to get outside and glory in the scent every day when they are in bloom.  There are many flowers that I love to smell--freesias and Mirandy roses especially, but if I had to choose only one it would be the orange blossom.  On a warm early spring evening, we have their perfume carried all the way from the back of the house up to the kitchen door, and I love to imagine that the gates of heaven will be surrounded by eternally blossoming orange trees.