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The rain is soft upon the deck. An early morning gust swept through the Harbour this morning and a quick run around and close hatches an early wake up. It’s a Sunday morning hanging on the hook in Falmouth harbor. My back yard these last two pandemic seasons. The world feels to be loosening up again, the island feels full of happy adventuring types. The sun is hot mid days and I hide in my hammock off the sail locker/art space I’ve carved out here. I’ve been arm wrestling old short stories, the beginnings of a prose piece. Words and metaphors rest and wait for me to rediscover. It’s almost the best way to do this, a pay attention to this, each morning, give some energy move it along and remind myself of my true tribe of proof readers. Round robin styled under the wing of poet Robert Sward while in Santa Cruz.
I’m a terrible editor. My friend Nancy was patient and genuine in her skill set as wordsmitthing monitor of story, voice and content. I miss her, in all her crotchety old Jewish lady shtick by way of Orange County. She was dealing with the indignities of cancer taking her daughter and husband. The sole surviving son, off in the Northwest and busy with his life and battling his own health issues, she was a reader and gardener. Opinion offered freely and typically without a breath in between thoughts.
Big Pharma and it’s long tenticals of protocol kept her at arms length of full chemo, she was loathe to be back on that tether so stopped taking the tamoxifen after telling off more than one Stanford oncologist. I said nothing. My job was to listen and listen some more. Never my strong suit, it was a place of science project. She was leaving the promises behind after loosing her husband and daughter. Quality of life issues witnessed first hand offered a magic wand of empowerment to her. Admirable and brave.
Things you can’t do become a focus when the world narrows. Her recipes of beloved meals no longer cooked but puréed in the vita mix that son John mailed. I was a fan of my own hand me down vita mix technology. All things veggie, fruit, protein powder, chia seed ; any thing.
In solidarity in part because that’s how I ate already. Big protein based veggie smoothies powered my construction in the Redwoods of California project. It was an adventure to get there, making it remote and silent. Her too late advancement of esophagus cancer closed off avenues of gourmet but our shared appetite for books, single pot stews that could be mashed beyond recognition smoothie formed could be vita- mixed and drank with a fat straw.
She literally vanished, pounds shed and voice softened her energy sporadically available to offer a walk in her relocated apartment in Oregon. We now had another thing to bond us. Refuges from California. I’m not a proponent of measuring sticks, the raw natural abundance of California was where we both grew up and considered home. She in conservative Pasadena, then Orange County. I in San Diego. We talked of the power of a garden. Plants, and personality of sun ratio to drought friendly to likening pinks and a purple ranged of well behaved plant.
Such contrast to grey scale skies of an Oregon fall to light on a clump of beloved redwood gave filtered evening light to the front window of the home Nancy had after she lost her partner.
In the solitary lonely place of depression and self medicating with fine Local wines we shared these trials too. I stayed on the wagon, she would have a few glasses of rose and I would sip peppermint tea. Craigslist was our match maker, when I advertised forming a book club based upon the booker prize winners of a certain period of time. Nancy reached out to me, and as the date for the book club approached it came down to her and I, the sole base of an idea. Our book: The Giver. The year and book both forgettable. She forever bemoaned the loss of time from reading THAT book she’d remind. There’s a thread to her rants, books and American football. I’m a decent listener. I know not all books are amazing, the ones that are we hold dear until palmed off on the next person.
This thread was hours of friendship.
The kvetching gave me a glimpse of how not to be in old age. She had lived in Michigan, attended school at an age of teenaged kids under foot to be latchkey. Outdoor summer stories of Michigan were shared, I mostly always on the listening side. I’m glad I could be that. Someone to bear witness and see the merit in.
It’s been a year this month since I lost my friend Nancy. I see her in the dog eared book trade books I encounter, her conversation in my head and I’m here in the Caribbean giving homage now to our shared beloved author ( Jim Harrison, Michigan based novelist and fine poet.) departed. Joan Didion was another we put upon a pedestal. She too is now gone.
I’m realizing not having a cemetery plot to visit, this place of our sacred fostered love of the written word on paper and in the storage shed styling of cast off books . It’s here that I worship at this alter and remember. A fine group of women of my Santa Cruz home port of the last handful of years formed with the poet laureate of Santa Cruz, Robert Sward would arrange the tables in a circle, and be attentive to each story, each reading, a shared idea that lived on paper being round robin style debated. This as primer. A place holder for getting an edit in, moving a story forward. I began to see the depth of story and strength of characters so bold to share, prepared to bring copies. A higher sense of the story, is shared then it’s living its own life. ( re edit 3/30/23)