BECOMING VISIBLE

I’ve mentioned before how deer often come to forage in our backyard—or used to before the conversion. Does and their fawns feasted on the plums that fell from the plum tree in back or rested on hot days in the shade of our ramshackle carport. There was lots of room since most of the parking spaces were vacant.

Last night I dreamed that a whole herd of deer paraded through our backyard! I saw them from the kitchen window, counting ten of them as they passed under it. Then at the foot of the plum tree, I spotted a large horned owl—in broad daylight yet!—a thrill because I’ve always loved owls, and I’ve only seen them twice in the wild.

What an auspicious dream! I think to myself—because I’ve just emailed my Poof! Academy I package to Lorna from BAIPA to lay it out for publication. I use the term “package” because the folder included twenty-one items—from the book covers and spine to the various interior pages, all of which I designed myself.

Oh, my gosh…I was just wondering what the owl might symbolize, and though my first association was “wisdom,” my next was “nocturnal, reclusive, unseen.” One theory of dreams says all the characters in our dreams are ourselves. So maybe I dreamed about the owl because I’m finally coming out of the shadows—ready to be seen.

What a gift my dream was, I consider later, because yesterday I was in a funk—I’d discovered that I’d been duped by an online advertiser into paying an additional $100-plus for a product I didn’t want. But there are experiences that sweep you out of your daily, mundane preoccupations and make you aware of a deeper reality that’s unfolding in your life. Which reminds me of a recent entry in my journal:

“Here I am, at an advanced age, anticipating what may prove to be the most challenging chapter in my later life because I’m in the process of making one of the most radical changes I’ve attempted in many years: I’m trying at long last to become visible.”

OXYMORON

Have I mentioned that I’m a member of BAIPA—the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association—which meets monthly in Novato, across the Richmond Bridge from Berkeley? It’s a thriving group that includes writers of all ages, editors, illustrators, graphic artists, printers, marketing experts, audio book actors, and more.
“Wow! I just attended my second BAIPA meeting, and I have more than a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be life-changing—because I’m an introvert of long standing.

“Last year before my goddaughter Arielle left to spend her high school junior year in Viterbo, Italy, I had her sign me up on Facebook. And though I loved seeing the pictures she posted of her travels on her Facebook page, my own page has remained faceless ever since—a gray ghost with a flip. (How’s that for an oxymoron? A faceless Facebook page!)

“But now that I’m preparing to self-publish my children’s books, I see I’m going to have to mend my inconspicuous ways. (Actually, I did take a few pictures of myself when I got my first iMac last February—and while I was pleased that the flash on my new computer blasted away most of my wrinkles in the photos, I couldn’t bring myself to post any of the shots on my Facebook page because…well, the closet door was open behind me in the background, revealing all the clutter inside. I have my pride.)

“Come to think of it, I’ve avoided having my picture taken ever since the photo for my Costco card. When I smiled for the camera, my lip twitched so much with the prolonged effort that I wound up looking like Elvis with his sulky curled lip—almost a sneer—though admittedly mine wasn’t as sexy.”

It wasn’t until I joined BAIPA that I finally let Ella take a photo of me for my Facebook page and had Michael show me how to do selfies on my new iMac.

TRAPEZE ARTISTS

One morning—I no longer remember the date—I was rereading Karin Fisher-Golton’s charming Amazing May blogs about gratitude and felt prompted to write about something, besides penicillin and the internet, that I’m grateful for:

My writing desk faces a picture window and half a vacant lot where a sprawling coast live oak grows, a sort of grand hotel for squirrels. (Actually, there used to be more than a dozen trees that screened out the properties beyond, so that I could imagine I was living on the edge of a wood.) Throughout the day squirrels cavort up and down the oak’s leafy byways. I’ve seen them hanging by their feet from branches like trapeze artists as they munched on acorns, swinging in the breeze. I’ve also watched them taunting the orange cat that likes to loll around on my car, leaving dirty paw prints all over it. They venture down the trunk of the oak to within a foot of him, then, at the same moment he lunges, they reappear halfway up the tree.

Though my little deck stood one story up from the ground, they had no trouble scrambling up the supporting pole at one corner, so I started hiding nuts for them—to see if they could find them in and around my pots and planters of flowers and vines. They did, of course, even though I took more and more elaborate pains to hide them. In those days, every spring, one or another of my three godkids and I would make a fairy garden in a large terra cotta basin—with tiny flowers, moss, polished stones, driftwood, and a bowl of water for a pond. In the fall when all the greenery died, I’d empty out the basin, leaving just a little soil at the bottom. Throughout the winter, the squirrels could be seen jumping into it and rolling around, giving themselves dirt baths—one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed because, like all squirrels, they lived in an accelerated dimension of time.

Sad to say, my deck was dismantled a few years back because the wood was rotting. Then the live oak was over-zealously pruned, and all but two of my other arboreal neighbors were felled. Now a cement parking lot covers half the formerly “vacant” lot. But I’ll always be grateful for the delightful memories and the squirrels that still come to entertain me.

Hint: For those of you who would like to make a fairy garden with the children in your life, I found driftwood and polished stones for aquariums in a tropical fish store.

GARDEN GURUS

It’s been a long, lovely spring, the hills still gloriously green well into May. Now that many of my Facebook friends are showcasing their gardens online, I’m wanting to add my voice and photos to the mix—because I once had a garden too.

The images above are old Polaroids I scanned. In A Patchwork Memoir I wrote:

Because our apartment is so small, I thought it would be nice to add on another room—a colorful, fragrant outdoor annex. So I set out to transform our 6’ x 10’ deck—which stands one story above ground and looks out onto asphalt and the sagging roof of the carport—into a bower.

I started small, with a window box. When I went to East Bay Nursery to choose my first annuals, I was astonished at the prices. $2.50 for a pansy, petunia, or snapdragon? How could anything so beautiful be so cheap? From my annuals I learned that some of the best things in life are—almost—free.

No sooner had I planted my window box than we had a hard, driving rain. When I padded out the next morning, half-expecting my flowers to be battered to the ground, I found them jauntily upright, reminding me that “delicate” and “doughty” aren’t necessarily a contradiction in terms.

When I had enclosed the deck with flowering vines and bushes—bougainvillea, star jasmine, and a camellia, and added pots of lobelia, dahlias, and a pink breath of heaven, I decided there was only one thing missing—a small tree for the corner. So I scoured the East Bay nurseries—every last one—for the perfect arboreal roommate. “The canopy won’t be much larger than the root system,” I was advised by more than one nursery worker, “so if it’s in a standard 12”-diameter pot…” Pretty pitiful canopy, I thought. Then one day I happened upon the perfect “tree”—a wisteria pruned to a single trunk—in a narrow 5-gallon pot with a broad lush canopy and white starbursts of blooms. “Too bad that variety doesn’t have a fragrance,” I overheard an employee say in passing. Of course, the very first evening I went out to look at it, its white blooms phantasmagoric in the darkness, it filled the air with perfume. From my irrepressible wisteria I learned, “Don’t believe everything you’re told, especially by the experts.”

The one thing I didn’t like about my new tree, though, was the rude, green-stained stake that supported it. The trunk looked strong enough to me, so I cut the cords that bound it to the stake—and it flopped right over, its canopy dragging on the ground, exhorting me, by its melodramatic collapse, to leave well enough alone!

So much for my lessons—I thought I’d graduated. Naïve gardener that I was, I imagined I could go on living in paradise. With serene complacency, I brunched among my flowers and wrote. Until the barbarian hordes invaded. Then I was battling aphids, spider mites, petunia bud worms, diabrotica beetles, carpenter bees, mildew, scale, and rust… For every flower, there was a predator. From my entire garden I learned, “There are no free brunches.”