Monthly Archives: September 2017

Flotsam and Jetsam

The flotsam and jetsam surrounds me.

A china egg from one man who loved me; a delicate heart from another.

My baby brother’s Easter basket used by my son in his childhood.   A random, painted plastic egg, bearing a face drawn in my son’s unmistakable left-handed style.   A birdhouse which Patrick and Chris Taggart made on the dining room table under a reluctant stepfather’s watchful eye, that awkward summer when the boys  earnestly pursued Scout merit badges.

The telling mask which Patrick made of his face in first grade, what seems like centuries ago.

A red wooden box where I stored love-letters, missives consigned to the trash during the first round of cleaning.  It holds only dust now.

Here,   a shiny orb that another stepfather and I gave my son for that last happy Christmas before our family shattered, drawn down by its own impossible, cumbersome weight.

There, a hand-blown bowl, the square mate to which went away in that first, awful Holmes House break-up, nearly ten years ago.

Stacks of books that I cannot bear to lose but which I will probably never re-read.

My mother’s coffee urn, its lid broken and replaced by one made of wood in my father’s workshop.

The last surviving intact Alan White Coffee Mug, from a time before we created a law firm together which became his day-job.  He crafted the mug during his years working in the studio of a potter who insisted that the words “thank you” be resounded at every turn and who yelled unrelentingly if one didn’t conform to his demands.  I’m not sure that working with me has been a better gig.

By the end of today, all must be culled or packed.  I sit in my pajamas, with a crystal cup of coffee at hand, reading e-mail and delaying this last bittersweet task.  My life feels small and insignificant, a crumble of autumn leaves floating in rainwater.

Yesterday, someone who voices love for me sent an intricate missive with advice for my future.  I stood in a store, waiting for help, reading the letter on my phone.  I could have cried; I might have laughed; I found myself tempted to rage.  Instead, I let myself believe in the righteousness of his concern.  I sent two words in reply:  Thank you.

Later, I would craft a further response.  But in that moment, what rose from the rubble as gratitude seemed to suffice.  Maybe that potter had it right all along, despite the vitriol with which he delivered his message.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

My Hope

The downside of downsizing has a gnarly underbelly covered with skittering bugs.  But its upside — oh, the glory of it!

Stacks surround me. Pictures of the children who ran down this driveway; their scribblings; and the intricate portrayals of the dragons which they slayed teeter beneath the weight of rusty cars found under the guest bed and in the corners of closets.

Awash with emotion, I lift each memento.  I smooth the crumpled pages and shake dust from the fading surfaces.  There I find the young hopeful woman who bore a child alone; there I find the beginnings of crow’s feet around my eyes as I stand in a wedding dress; there I see the tension in my child’s eyes while his mother lies in a hospital bed.

As the uncertainty of my medical condition unfolded in the mid- and late-1990s, I explained to my child that “a bug bit me on the brain when I was a baby”.  That bug broke the nerves that tell my muscles what to do, I explained.  That’s why I walk funny.

I went on to describe the new reality.  I told him that the bug had been asleep, but now it had awakened and coursed through my body, causing new problems.  Dr. Brewer wanted to invent a medicine to fight the bug.  He asked me to help him by trying out that medicine to see if it would work.  In the meantime, the bug gave me asthma.

I didn’t explain that the “bug”, a virus called HHV-6, also creates a condition requiring blood thinner, but Patrick knew that all of us had to take turns giving Mom a shot.  The needle held heparin for my hypercoagulability.  At eight, Patrick could not have digested the complexity of the situation.  But this he understood:  Bug.  Asthma. Needles,  Fight.   

He understood, too, that his mother constantly teetered on the brink of serious illness.  Time after time we rushed to the emergency room because I could not breathe.  I’ve often worried that the stress of having an ailing mother damaged him.  But I put that worry aside, in line behind all the other fears of my failure as a parent to this marvelous creature.

Yesterday, that bogeyman sprang from the closet and, like the bug, bit me in a tender place.  But with it came the soothing salve of some unshakable belief that my boy loved me enough to devote an entire page of his journal to an account of my rescue.

I’ve quoted this before but no more aptly.  In “A Thousand Clowns”, the main character recounts the incongruity of a bachelor suddenly finding himself the guardian of his nephew.  He frets over whether he has properly acquitted himself in the role.  He expresses a single, desperate hope:  That the boy will think well of me in analysis.

I share that hope.

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

One Moment of Delirium

I sat on a bench in front of the bar in Division 25 thinking about the broken road over which I stumbled which led me to an uncontested docket where grey-haired lawyers slouch next to their petulant clients.  We mumble a series of leading questions and in six minutes, end a marriage.  I reeled beneath the weight of its effortless desolation.

Then the door to the courtroom opened, and in one crazy moment, I careened into delirium.

The woman walked towards me with an elegant bearing, a grand smile and a curved belly beneath a stunning black dress.  My breath rose in my chest; tears gathered in the corner of my eyes.  With a darting glance towards the judge, I whispered, Oh my god, I didn’t know you were pregnant!  Her smile widened.  I studied her gleaming eyes, her shiny hair, her radiant face.

How is your MS?  She made that gesture — sweeping hands — all good.   No flare-ups?  She shook her head.  Some people get worse, some go into remission. I’m in remission.    A sob escaped as I leaned forward to touch her knee.  I’m so happy, I told her.  Me too, she laughed.  I heard our voices rising above a tolerable level and looked again to the front of the courtroom, but the judge paid no heed to our exchange.

I thought you couldn’t get pregnant!  I chortled.  Me too! she said again, and her glow lit the room around us.  I could neither dim my beaming nor stem the tears.  We sat, eyes drawn to each other’s faces, until my case came across the judge’s bench and I rose to murmur my own six-minutes of formulaic babble to end my client’s marriage.

I paused on my way out and looked at her.  I will never forget the victorious smile she flashed.  I don’t believe that I’ve been this excited about a pregnancy since the doctor told me that I was still with child after losing his twin.  I won’t name this woman.  I don’t know if she broadcasts her MS or just told me, years ago when we had a case together, because my disability looks so similar to that nasty condition.  That she’s pregnant and doing well astounds me.  I carried the joy of it for hours after.  It almost erased the foul remains of an afternoon on the uncontested docket, where people’s lives crater under each uncompromising slash of a jurist’s pen.

It’s the twenty-fifth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Thank you

I came upstairs to dress and prepare for an arduous day.  But the computer drew my attention.  I’ve been scrolling through pictures of last evening’s fundraiser for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center instead of dressing, making the bed, and generally behaving in mundane but necessarily responsible ways.

I’m feeling thankful.

I had a running argument with someone about the distinction — if any there be — between saying “I appreciate you” and saying “Thank you”.  I contended that the former conveyed an affirmative act of engaging in gratitude.  I believed it to be the more powerful and evocative articulation.  He disagreed, initially without being able to formulate the basis of his dispute with me.  Over time, the argument became both entrenched and symbolic, as such controversies will do.

Eventually, he came to me with this sentiment:  I prefer to hear “Thank you” because it places the emphasis on ‘me’ , rather than on ‘you’.

He made a certain amount of sense.

I think of human interaction as a continuum but not a linear one.  I see few experiences as linear.  Though I appreciate Miranda Erichsen’s “you live, you die”, as a justification for choosing action over inaction, I don’t truly believe that life can be so neatly summarized.  You live. . . you act in ways which ripple through the universe to cause unforeseen effects. . .your persona changes because of the ripples flowing in your direction. . . then you. . .die? Rejoin the collective conscious and act in another plane, causing rippling there and who-knows-where-else?

I once heard that the Japanese have multiple words for “gratitude” and they all translate to resentment.  I’ve since researched and determined that to be a myth.  But in languages which use characters rather than the letters of Germanic languages such as English, varied expressions of thanks do exist.  I found this one in Arabic:  شكر.  Its translation seems to be “thanks, gratitude, thanksgiving, thankfulness, acknowledgement”.  Acknowledgment comes the closest to what I strive to convey when I say, “I appreciate you”.

I dwell in a state and process of appreciation.


Thank you.  To all of those who attended last night’s fundraiser for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center.  Thank you to Miranda Erichsen, for her tireless and unfailingly graceful work and support of the event and of me.  Thank you to Jilli Nel for EmCeeing, auctioneering, and inspiring.  Thank you to Karla Hull for garnering donations, food, and raffle ticket sales (!!!).  Thank you to Lori Hooten mostly for being herself, but also for working on the committee, sharing her art and words, and bringing her fabulous daughter Kristan Roller to be our warrior princess.  Thank you to the participating artists, Jill Huxtable, Ruthie Becker, Amy Fisher, and Lori Hooten, for manifesting survival in visual art and the written word. Thank you to Flowerama for the beautiful floral arrangements and the corsages, especially mine.  Thank you to Family Court Commissioner Martina Peterson, for her courageous support of recovering addicts in Family Court as well as for last night’s moving, powerful speech. Thank you to Sidepockets for the food, and to the lavender-icing-cupcake lady whose name I do not know.  Thank you to all the sponsors, including and perhaps especially Russell Criswell of Vulcan’s Forge and Jan Buerge of World’s Window.   Thank you to my always-cousin-in-law Tom Platt, for showing up, staying, and for winning a bidding war over a Vulcan’s Forge original piece and then presenting it to me for a birthday gift.  Thank you to my business partner, ex-husband, and suite-mate Jim MacLaughlin for his contributions to the benefit, his sponsorship, and for supporting this cause.  Thank you to suite-mate Ted Hughes of The Hughes Law Firm for showing up, getting auction donations, and bidding.  Thank you to all who attended, bid, bought raffle tickets, and put money in the tip jars.

We raised around $4,000.00, more than last year.  I am humbled and honored to have been a part of this.  Work such as this both invigorates and completes my spirit.

Most of all:  Thank you to SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center, and all the agencies that work with those who survive and thrive after experiencing family violence.  Their dedication gives thousands of women and children — and, yes, men — a chance to find security and safety on the path away from victimhood and towards peace and survival.

It’s the twenty-fourth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

My Favorite Version of Livingston Taylor’s Thank You Song

Be The Change

All the good stories of the past have been told.

The bad stories of the past have been referenced as obliquely as possible; as clearly as necessary; and with as much empathy as time and healing allowed.

Now it is time for me to embrace change.

Now it is time for me to be the change that I want to see.

For that reason, I have brought together a committee of courageous women, and a cadre of survivors who use their art to signal their own determination to embrace change.  Together, and with your help, we come together to support two agencies which also understand that those who have experienced violence must survive and thrive.

On Saturday, 23 September 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., all of us will unite to present HOPE FLOATS: Surviving and Thriving after family violence.  We aim to raise funds and awareness.  The money raised in our silent and live auctions, our raffles, our tip jars, and in direct contribution, will be equally divided between SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center.  These agencies provide crucial services to women and children who have experienced family violence.

Please join us.  Bring your checkbooks, your wallets, your compassion, and your empathy.  The evening’s entertainment and art augment the primary purpose of the gathering, which is to provide a venue for contributing as much as you can to these extraordinary facilities.

But additionally, the venue allows survivors to have a voice.

We do not focus on blame or shame.  We want to cast aside feelings of victimhood.  Rather, we join arms to salute each other; the staff of SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center; the clients whom they serve; and you, who understand and appreciate what community can do for survivors in need.

Because I know the statistics, I realize that my words might be reaching many who themselves have survived the terrible trauma of domestic violence.  This entry might in fact fall into the inbox or onto the social media feed of some still caught in the throes of violence in their home.  If you find yourself grappling with such a situation, KNOW THIS:  You, too, can break free.

We know it is not easy.

We know in fact that it is damnably difficult.

But there is help.

You can call SAFEHOME’s 24 hour crisis line at: 913-262-2868.

You can call Rose Brooks Center’s 24 hour crisis line at: 816-861-6100.

You can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-799-(SAFE) (7233).

You are not alone.

I know, too, that I am not alone.  I could not have pulled off the preparations for this event without Miranda Erichsen, Karla Hull, Lori Hooten, and Jilli Nel.  Our fabulous participating artists, Lori Hooten, Jill Huxtable, Ruthie Becker, and Amy Fisher put themselves on the line to show their genuine emotion depicted in visual art and the written word.  The Accidental Project performs and will auction off a house concert.  Jackson County PA Jean Peters Baker, Johnson County DA Steve Howe, and Family Court Commissioner Martina Peterson again appear to support this effort with their knowledge and their words.   A host of individuals and businesses have contributed to the auction, the raffle, and the evening’s fare.

The event will be truly stellar.  I hope you will attend.

I know some of you have already sent donations, and thank you. Others have indicated that they are not available tomorrow due to prior commitments, but that you will be sending donations, and we thank you for that as well. You can mail checks made out to either SAFEHOME or Rose Brooks Center, to me:

M. Corinne Corley
4010 Washington, Suite 100
Kansas City, Missouri 64111

Write “HOPE FLOATS” in the memo section, and we will include your donation when we tender the proceeds to the agencies. The agencies will send tax receipts for your monetary donations.

We are expecting a good crowd, despite the fact that it’s coinciding with the second night of the Plaza Art Fair. Our silent auction bidding starts at 6:00 p.m.  The official welcome, and introduction and remarks by speakers, commences at 6:45. The live auction starts at 8:00 p.m. Bidding closes on the silent auction at 8:45. Raffle drawings will be held intermittently. You do not have to be present to win an item in the silent auction, but you must be present to win in one of the raffle drawings.

I chose the slogan of HOPE FLOATS because of the touching and sweet imagery of the Sandra Bullock movie.  But I choose tonight’s message, “Be The Change”, and the attached image, in honor of my sister Joyce Corley, for whom transformation has so recently blossomed, and without whom my own change would never have been possible.

I hope to see you all tomorrow night.  Thank you.


Corinne Corley

You don’t know this new me. I put the pieces back differently. — Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Home again, home again

I arrived at HI Fisherman’s Wharf with half a tank of gas in the rental car and zero energy.

The appointment at Stanford on Monday held mixed reviews.  Peppered through the doctor’s Colombia gushing, pronounced in his adorable thick accent, words like “challenged mitrochondria” rolled over phrases like “compound the normal aging process”.  These dire warnings sounded only slightly less daunting when articulated by a twinkling man twenty years my junior who kept patting my knee.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him (a) that’s considered misogynist; and (b)  I can’t feel anything in that knee since it’s artificial.

He adjusted one medication and added another, a controversial “off-formulary” use about which I would murmur and assent to taking but secretly plan to vet.  With cautions like “don’t overdo it” and “you’re no young any more, Missus Corley”, the doctor shooed me down the hallway and scurried into the next room.  I stood at the counter waiting to talk to the nurse about the weird pharmacy requirements back home, feeling discouraged, wishing my flight could be moved to that day.

Ready to be home.

Home.  Where the heart is; where you hang your hat; where everybody knows your name; where my thoughts are creeping but nobody lies silently sleeping.

Instead of going “home”, I drove to San Francisco, to the hostel at Fisherman’s Wharf.  At the front desk, smiling Sarah checked me into the place two hours early so I could stroll down to the cafe and order a salad and a coffee.  The order-taker scouted a chair for me and nestled it by a tiny table.  I gazed over the Bay with my salad balanced on my knee and my electronics off, secured, unbidden.

I did nothing much of anything for hours.  In the evening, I fixed a simple supper in the ADA kitchen, then took my Kindle to the expansive lobby.  After I had moved over to accommodate a woman sneaking white wine from a screw-top bottle hidden in a paper bag, I leaned into the sofa and let the piano music flow over me.  Through slitted eyes, I watched the player, a sixty-something with  iron-grey hair, a weathered face, and a dingy backpack hanging from bony shoulders.  He sang covers of seventies songs and stopped after each one to ask if anyone minded if he kept playing.  No one did.

By nine o’clock, I had crawled under the comforter in my bottom bunk in the women’s dorm.  Just before I slept, a woman named Sammi, from Taiwan (“my parents had a good sense of humor”) recounted her itinerary:  Bus to Los Angeles; then fly to Miami, Havana, New York, and London.  You are very brave, I told her, my voice weary, froggy with sleep.  Nice to meet you, Miss Corinne, she said, the last sound I heard before drifting away.

I woke at five, showered in the ADA bathroom, and made my way outside to the rental car.  An hour later, I sat in traffic, watching the sun rise over the hills, the first leg in my journey home.

It’s the twentieth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


In the hostel kitchen yesterday morning, a woman from Alameda talked about her road to California from Indiana, following her daughter.  A couple in the corner of the living room greeted a girl from China with the only language that she confidently shared: Smiles and gestures to the chair beside them.

It’s dark now, not yet six and the sun has not begun its radiant show.  We saw only a glimpse of its flash as it set yesterday.  The shimmer on the water awed us until a bank of fog rolled over the horizon and blocked our view.  But  the gulls still swooped through the air.  Several of us lingered in the evening chill, hoping that the last rays of the day would dispense the barrier and find their way to the water.

In a few minutes, I will step outside the front door of this building, the dorm house called Dolphin, at which I always stay when I journey to Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel.  In my wool slippers with their leather soles, I will venture onto the roadway.  I can’t see the sunrise from the west  kitchen window by which I now sit, so I must be outside, in the cold.  I don’t mind.  The earth makes its effortless turn. I shall be in attendance to watch this brief moment of the long journey.

Conversation ebbed and flowed in the house last evening.  A chance remark about religion brought the story of a woman writing her memoirs, along with an explanation of her blog on digital chaos.  I asked a gentleman how he fared, and stopped typing to listen to his genuine reply.  I offered coffee to the women traveling in a pack through their visit here; one of them accepted, and later held a door for me as I struggled to the room for sleep.  That’s how we roll, we hostel dwellers, we traveling restless souls.

The same group of women sat on the back porch talking about their lives, their loves, and the decisions which brought them to this instant in their lives.  I could have been another crow, inches from their table, for all they heeded  my presence.  I closed  my eyes and let their words flow over me.  I yearned to draw the lot of them into my embrace and assure them that their choices would be sound.  Just let it unfold as it will, I longed to advise them.  Don’t second-guess yourself.

The Indiana gal hugged me in the parking lot, then stood aside for her husband to do the same.  Isn’t serendipity a beautiful thing, she said.  Then they got into their truck and left, waving, smiling, watching me until they turned from the parking lot to Pigeon Point Road.

Indeed, I whispered in reply, to no one, to everyone, to the gulls in their breathtaking, beautiful, endless pattern of flight overhead.

It’s the seventeen day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Please click on the gallery to see the images in full.  Thank you.

Evening at the edge of the world

As fate would have it, the call from one of my doctors at Stanford set off a chain of events that typify my life.

Ms. Corley, came the gracious, slightly lilting accent of the handsome, extraordinarily talented Jaime Lopez, M.D.  Are you still in Missouri, or are you in California already?  I listened for a few moments, replied, and murmured my assent to his request to change my 9:00 a.m. Friday appointment to Thursday afternoon.  Any time, said Dr. Lopez.  Three, four, five, it doesn’t matter, I will be there when you arrive.  Just call this number, it’s my personal cell phone.

I left Montara then, making my way east to the Delta Bay.  Along the way, I stopped and bought dates at the market just as I turned from one highway to the last leg of the journey.  Then I drove along Brannan Island Road, and thus into the heart of the Delta, where the San Juaquin gets lazy, and the boats drift, and the people lift their hand from the steering wheel as you pass.

Later, I slipped back down the interstate and crossed into Palo Alto from the South Bay bridge.  My breath never left my body for the entire trip, as the sun rippled on the waves and the tiny birds skimmed across the surface.  I pulled into the parking lot at 4:30, texted Dr. Lopez, and then entered the building just as the evening staff came on duty.

We talked for quite a while, Dr. Lopez and I.  He explained about the conference at which he had agreed to speak, thinking it was Saturday.  We talked about his lecture, on the allocation of resources for neuro-diagnostic services.  He explained his theory of putting aside a strict cost-benefit analysis favored by the administrators, and focusing on quality, patient perception, and result.

Then he applied the deadly toxin to my spastic legs, deep into the muscle, talking all the while in his melodic Mexican voice.  Later he would tell me how astonishing he found his life.  He came to America legally, with his parents at age four.  He said, I tell my colleagues, I will not starve.  I can do a little work for free.  I asked if he had grown up in poverty.  He smiled, leaned against the elevator door, and nodded.  Unbelievably poor, and look at me now.  This is why I do things for people in need, because of the bounty which is my life.

The elevator doors closed on the brilliant flash of his smile and the warm brown glint of his eyes.

That night, as I curled to sleep in the little bed in the tiny house which I had secured online for the one night in Palo Alto, I thought about his good fortune, and mine for finding him and the other doctors who have helped me.  A surge of humility overcame me and kissed my dreams as I slept.

In the morning, I went over e-mail and realized that a flood of messages had fallen into my inbox on the wake of a couple of telephone calls on one of my sticky-wicket guardian ad litem cases.  And so, because I had accommodated Dr. Lopez’s request to reschedule, I had three or four hours to devote to helping a ten-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother; and perhaps to set in motion changes which might relieve them of extraordinary anxiety.

As I wrote, I heard two men describing a program which they had started to teach yoga and mindfulness in the local schools.  Having just told my ten-year-old client to try yoga before bedtime as a way of easing into sleep, I found their conversation irresistible.  I shamelessly eavesdropped, then rose and gave them my card.  I introduced myself, took their names, and explained the appeal to me of their mission.

Then, suddenly, I had no further reason to tarry.   I made Half Moon Bay by noon.  Thus did I find myself in The Posh Moon, where a lovely woman in a navy blue hat sold me a sweet little present for my secretary Miranda’s five-year-old daughter, Aubrielle.  The same woman had tucked a little medallion of an angel into my hand when I complimented her hat.  She had no idea what angels mean to me.  I cried.  I admit it:  I stood at the counter and cried, having no shame, and certainly no concern for who might see.

Out on the sidewalk, I ran into Kristin Hewett, an artist whom I see year in and year out.  But she no longer has her shop and had moved to Oregon, so it made no sense that I could walk down the stretch of broken concrete in front of her old store just as she exited, having come to town to consign a few of her jewelry pieces and chat with the new owner.  No earthly reason brought me to that exact spot at the perfect time, except the chain of events which began the prior day with that call from Dr. Lopez.

We hugged one another, caught up on our respective lives, and exchanged phone numbers.  Then she hobbled on one bad knee, a cane, and a shaky leg up the three stairs into Silk and Stone.  She showed me the pieces of her design, and later, after she had left, I bought one for Miranda, who deserves all the gifts I can afford.

And then, at last, when lunch had been eaten and presents stowed in my suitcase, I made my way just a bit further east, to the Cabrillo Highway, and twenty miles south.  At three o’clock, I arrived at the place where my grand and glorious love affair with the sea began:  Pigeon Point.

I’ve eaten dinner now.  The other guests chattered at the table or took their bowls of rice and pasta to the picnic benches outside.  I sat over my potatoes and mushrooms, smiling, silent.  I gave one of them my oil to use, and offered corn tortillas.  I scooted further down so a young couple could sit adjacent to one another.  Outside of the kitchen window, the sun began to set, and I breathed — long, deep, and satisfying, that breath, like no other I have taken in the awkward weeks since my last visit here.

Night falls.  The gulls call to one another across the water, noting the dying light to the west.  Here in Dolphin, I sit alone at the table.  It always comes to this:  The setting sun, and the cry of the birds, and me, alone with my words.  My peace.  My joy.  Here, at the edge of the world, as evening draws to its gentle close.

It’s the fifteenth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Here in the west

Here, in the west, in Northern California, I wear Jenny Rosen’s purple socks without shame.  I sit at a kitchen table in full sight of other travelers, in pajamas and a melon-colored shawl.  I drive for hours and sit drinking coffee with an artist whom I hadn’t previously met but whose kinship I never questioned.

I watch the sea through the window of the hostel.  She ripples gently today.  Yesterday she rose to meet the fog and crashed against the rocks.  We smaller beings sat on benches awed by the dance.  Fog entwined itself around the pulsing waves of water.  The tendrils sparkled with the kiss of those other waves, waves of healing light from the autumn sun.  We humans, on our benches, did not question where we stood in the chain of power.

Out beyond the reach of my inadequate lens, a ridge of rocks rises from the sea.  I could see a  boat coming around its edge, if one should venture there.  But none does and the sea laps against those rocks undisturbed.  Seagulls rise and fall in their unfailing line across the pale sky.  Grey clouds glint with the promise of the day.  Here, in the west, on the edge of everything, I wonder if that  commitment extends to me.

It’s the fourteenth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.



Here’s to the unknown mother

When Carolyn Karr’s husband dropped me at the airport, I had not yet had a cup of coffee.

My flight to LAX arrived 45 minutes ahead of its own schedule.  A young woman with tart brown eyes and red finger nails wheeled me with extraordinary efficiency to Gate 17A, and tarried in pretend activity waiting for a tip.  Had she not done so — had she smiled and started just as efficiently away — I would have drawn the smallest bill from my bag and given it to her.  But I knew that bill would be a five-spot, and she seemed so demanding.  Instead I bestowed my winningest smile, watching her respond with all the surliness of a disappointed tiger in heat.

The SWA employee at the gate desk gestured to a kiosk beyond my sight in answer to my query about the nearest coffee.  Shoved into a tiny wheelchair, with my computer bag in my lap and my cane dragging the floor, I could never have made it.  I peered down the concourse.  When I looked back at him, he had turned to the pretty woman on his right and begun a conversation about the date he had the previous evening.

Inconsistent though it might have been, I snapped his photo and posted it on the SWA Facebook page with a note that he had declined to assist.  I knew my need might have exceeded his jurisdiction but so many people help others despite the inconvenience.  He seemed insensitive; perhaps that’s what compelled me.   I pictured someone like my son — maybe very much like my son — running a program much like the program which he runs.  I wondered what that invisible person would say, the one who manages their social media.

Victoria, she called herself.  She invited me to ask for coffee on board the flight, two hours hence.  I did not use any sour language, just noted that my layover encompassed a long stretch for one who had drunk only water since the prior evening.  Victoria did not respond.  Perhaps her jurisdiction, too, had been surpassed.

So, coffeeless, I sat.

Then Holly came, the relief gate attendant, and a minute later she nipped down to the staff coffee pot and brought me a cup of the strongest stuff in seven states.  I drank it greedily and thought about the smile I had given her when I laughingly recounted the story of the Facebook post.  Then she started the announcements and I took her photo, too, and put it with the one of the guy who’d scored big, on a Sunday date with his wife.  She said, Did you take my photo?  I hope I looked good!  We had another chuckle just before she whisked me down to the plane.

An hour later, the airline with a heart safely delivered me to the city by the Bay, where I had left mine three months ago.  The woman who took control of me for the long ride to the car rental terminal weighed less than my suitcase.  I gave her the five.  She beamed.

I’ve never got the hang of unfamiliar blue tooth dashboards.  As I left the terminal, I struggled to figure out why the phone lady had lost her voice.  I’m sure I broke a dozen California statutes, holding my Google map in front of my eyes.  I strained to make sense of the route and then, just then, the highway dipped as highways do out here, and I saw her.

My Pacific.

Now I’m sitting in the hostel kitchen.  I’ve brewed my own coffee, and I’ve made the bottom bunk which they reserved for me.  I’ve tossed my sweater on the rail and stood by the rope at the point itself, gazing at the sea, as the fog lifted just slightly, stirred by the afternoon sun.

Here, in the East Kitchen of the hostel at Point Montara, I raise my mug to the mother who gave us the babe who would, by virtue of adoption, become Edward Albee.  I don’t know why she did not raise the child herself, but because of what I like to think of as her sacrifice, he came to the home in which he received the specific nurturing needed to develop his voice.  And by way of that voice, I stumbled upon my mantra, the words which drive me to this place even when I have to come by way of Los Angeles.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”  — Edward Albee, The Zoo Story.

It’s the twelfth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

North by Northwest from the back walk at the hostel at Point Montara Lighthouse, Montara, California.