Tag Archives: beauty

Aberdeen (I’m running a bit behind here, I know!)

I wrote this a week ago in an internet free environment…

I’m in Aberdeen with Sara and Rowen and today sparkled with sunshine and rain, the train ride up here was glorious and filled with golden light and green moors and the sea, space around me in all directions, freedom stretching out side to side. And tonight I am absurdly happy. Very few people know happiness I think; I am so lucky.

A great chat, a tramp along a dirt path through the woods alongside a burn, and then a right up the hillside past fields with horses and a high stone wall to Rowen’s school to pick her up. A wee rest and then down to visit Sara’s brother past fields of pigs. We made pasta with fresh vegetables picked from their garden and romped with three tiny puppies who all finally fell asleep in my lap, and played tig and took a walk with the two dogs Bonnie and Meg down the road to the woods. We lost Meg and had to go back to look for her and then lost some time on the great bales of hay. My first time on bales of hay, you can jump and fall and roll around and it is soft almost like I imagine a cloud would be. There is honestly little better in the world than playing tig on bales of hay and clambering up and around and over and falling and not minding a bit. We lost Meg again, Meg was asserting her right not to go for a walk, so back to the house we went and then back home. And watched the empire strikes back munching on biscuits. Nevis the small black mouse had been released to enjoy his freedom a while in the living room, and it took some time to find him. I was having some misgivings about sleeping on the floor in said living room with Nevis running about, not enough to fall asleep somewhere else of course. But I have woken to find myself face to face with a mouse before, in the good old desert days, I can’t say I enjoyed it particularly. Luckily he was found underneath the chest and put to his own bed and so the room is mouse free and I am sleepy.

And I think in spite of everything life is beautiful.

Art, gods and stone

Creation awes me, the act of it. And what we have the capacity to create. And both the time span and scope of humankind’s run on earth. I love how things are so much the same and yet so very different…we all love, but the ideal of love is different. We all fear, but the form of our fears is different. We all speak, but language is so different, and I wonder how much we are shaped by these things, how much of them we shape, how the shaping happens.

I went to the British Museum the last day in London, I’ve been there before but every time I go I see new things that I fall in love with, that remain in my memory. And this visit I found several panels like this, that I know I have seen before but never loved

Figures drawn from stone, once alive, and now disappearing. And they linger as they go, they would have been already gone if they had not been stolen. And to me their true beauty lies in this return, this state halfway between sculpture and stone…they remind me of Michelangelo’s slaves escaping from the marble, unfinished. But the slaves are an emergence and these represent a death and I find both hauntingly beautiful. And they fascinate me with the confusion between rock and flesh.

The British Museum is overwhelming of course, after a short time the mind stops taking in things really, overburdened with beauty in glass cases. There was also a stunning display of American prints and etchings from Hopper to Pollock…I love black and white drawings and etchings as well and their collection is fantastic. Go see it if you can.

The other things that stood out this trip? Hawks. I love them in their beauty and purity and unconscious cruelty, they are ultimate predators and represent freedom in a way that few other animals can…and I found this

from ancient Egypt, and this:

from ancient assyria, and this

er…from China perhaps? China I think, or possibly Tibet. And each haunting in its own way, showing something deep rooted to be found across such space and time, something profound. I’ve been trying to write it but my words erase its profundity so I shall just leave it for the now.

Still, I have never been to the British museum when the sun was shining, and that itself was beautiful, the architecture is cold and neo-classical, but the light made it beautiful.

The moors

I walked out of Glenfall and down the road, past the Howwood Inn and up past the football pitch, down along the road that leads to…god damn, I’ve forgotten the little village, it’s where Michael lives, I remember walking down that road several times in company of Michael and Knoxie and Spider, too and from copious amounts of drinks, particularly one sunny Monday when I attended a barbecue with several chefs from the Johnstone area who tend to have Mondays off and I got a sunburn. First and last Scottish sunburn I must say, a unique event in the annals of history. One of the chefs lay comatose on the grass after a long wedding weekend, a wreck the like of which I have never seen after days of drinking and no sleep and a memorable but highly ill advised battle amongst the men with their wooden skean dhus which had left him with the most hideous bruises imaginable.

But today I made the first right up the hill and towards the moors, the sky was grey and it was raining, light rain, the sort of rain where the air is half water half mist and the wind blew hard against my face. Last I was up here was late spring and the day was clearer, Ben Lomond rose up in the distance covered in snow. Ben Lomond today lay shrouded in mist, unseen, looming on the edges of my imagination, the world reduced to the steep climb between the trees of Skipton wood, the gurgling of the burn to my right. I love the woods, and yet…and yet coming to the edge of the trees, seeing the green expanse of the moor rising open before me fills me with a fierce joyful sort of wildness. The wind screams up here, mist driven into your face, hair whipping around your head. Sheep watch you warily and if you come too close they bounce away (there is something about sheep running that always makes me laugh and I’ve tried to pinpoint why I find it so delightful but haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it). I wandered fiercely joyful along the curve of the moor, the bog of the old damn to my left, heather and moss and long grass beneath my feet, a sort of gothic elf today not having packed at all for moors so I had my trousers rolled up to my knees, long black socks, smart black trainers, black sweater…and I tried to take pictures but the moors in the rain defy capture.

It got exciting when I came to the first burn, having passed the hill where an early pict settlement supposedly once lay though nothing now remains…that too loomed large in my imagination as it could not be seen really through the weather. But the burn ran high, after a minute peering up and down in a vain search for likely rocks, I grinned and stepped into it, and continued to squelch happily on my way. The moors don’t go on far enough for me, they are over far too soon, and I had to make the left through the gate to pass the little farm. This time I was squelching through mud heavily enriched by cows, luckily I came to another burn and freed myself of the enrichment. And then back onto the lonely little country roads and winding down the hill and the sun came out to sparkle on the wet grass and summer flowers and pick out the shaggy coats of the cows as they stood watching me incuriously curious. This one was my favourite, all alone in his field and I spose unhappy in his loneliness, he stared at me and then followed me for 20 minutes or so, ambling slowly alongside the fence

I almost danced down the hill, past the trout fishery, down and down and back to Howwood. The world was gloriously beautiful as you can see


And the small things full of wonder.

Once the sun was out the pictures came alive of course, the light against dark clouds extraordinary and beautiful. Still, the sun did not come out for long, and played hide and seek with the rain which never quite let up. It had almost disappeared again for the last look back to where I had come from:

And now I am sitting in an airport, on my way to London and 4 days of great things…

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Baja adventures come to a close

Ah, to write is such glorious madness, and to live even more so, the night is warm and full of stars and soft winds and the crickets singing…

Saturday night was full of the sound of…firecrackers? I am still not sure, I know gunshots, I know firecrackers, there was no pop, no hiss as the firecracker takes flight, no crackle as sparks fly up and burn brightly before fading into their fall back down to earth as ashes. Whatever they were, they riddled the darkness with holes and woke me every time I was about to drift into dreaming. And cars peeled out, raced down the road, cruised slowly with a ghetto bumping that ranged from rap to banda’s trumpets and I did not sleep.

So Sunday dawned and we got up and went down to breakfast. I checked us out and lied about why we were leaving a day early and the woman peered at me suspiciously though I wasn’t angry and wasn’t going to battle for my money back. I ate the extra night’s charges happily and thought about Ensenada. A final view of ex-ejido Chapultepec, fondly referred to as Calcutta by Jose, the view from our balcony and the dream denied of access to a white beach to lie on and the lulling of waves…still, I am glad that we were there and enjoyed it greatly. It is a different sort of enjoyment then that to be found lying on a white beach, but enjoyment none the less. I love windows to other worlds.

We were up and out of there quite early, and two bus rides later arrived into Ensenada where we dropped our bags at the hotel, and then went for a wander along the port’s shore. It was picturesque, but often I prefer the interesting, we passed this:

Caution no bathrooms…I am glad they were clear and warned me about it, because I was thinking that might have been just the place…

I love boats, so we paid $2 to an old fisherman to go out in one, and he took us around the bay which hadn’t promised to be too exciting (to all those who don’t love boats that is). I would have been happy regardless as the adventure is the thing (and being in a boat), but we came suddenly upon the grand wreckage of an old pleasure cruiser half sunk into the bay, and it was an extraordinary thing to see

gutted and filled with salt and water, rotting away to the music of waves and the sea lion’s discordant barking, they lay sprawled across every surface. They are amazing creatures really, looking so ridiculous on land, long smooth rolls of fat awkward and ungainly, yet in the water they have such beauty. The old fisherman who took us around ignored us completely and set us back down onto the little pier, where the safety inspector was waiting clipboard in hand to ensure we were still wearing the life vests that had been thrust upon us when he suddenly appeared just before our departure.

A little further down we came upon the fish market, like the sea lions you can smell it for some time before you actually get there…and you can buy delicacies there beyond imagining

We wandered a bit more, I lunched on a cream puff and some coffee. When it was finally time to check in we rested for a bit, the cool comfort of a nice room can never be over-appreciated I have to say. And then we wandered the city some more. We had lobster for dinner, and just after we sat down a very self-important and probably minor figure in Ensenada’s narco-traficante world came in. He had a round red face beneath a panama hat, squat body and bandy legs, he was dressed in money and no taste rather like a Texan tourist. And his money had bought him a very young girlfriend with a beautiful face running slightly to fat and a tendency to look rather peevish. He kissed her regularly and with much enjoyment, and luckily for us monopolized one of the wandering groups of mariachis. He clearly did not care for music, only for his ability to buy it, so was rather annoyed whenever they asked him what they should play next as he was also involved in the tedious work of keeping several waiters rather busy. His girlfriend was annoyed at being loudly solicited for ideas, and so by default we heard of the exploits of other more famous narcos in one corrido after another, but since I myself do love music, especially the live mariachi variety, I wasn’t at all sorry. I was just sad he didn’t ask me.

At any rate, we left the seafood spot, and stopped into a couple of bars, watched with enjoyment the Ensenada cruising scene unfolding before our eyes, wrote a corrido ourselves on a napkin in honor of the one-eyed cholo from Friday (ay juedita tomame un photo, que yo no soy joto, pero si soy un cholo, de Doheeeeeee-ee-ny…forgot to say that our one-eyed cholo friend claimed the neighborhood of Wilshire and Doheny, ie Beverly Hills…it wasn’t until later when we had all calmed down from what seemed a probable scene of violence that any of us remembered such a ridiculous statement)

And so we ended up in the very nice and old wood-framed bar at the hotel…I was buying a round and talking to the bartender and I was all “hey, I was here for new years a year and a half ago…” and he was all “I remember you! You were sitting under that window at the table over there!” and I was all “yep (though with no little surprise!),” and then he was all “You were with your two friends playing dominos,” and I was all “yep,” And then he was all “I got you to dance!” and I was all ”er…yep?” I don’t remember that bit but it’s not hard to get me to dance at all, so it is probably true. This was all in Spanish of course, very loosely translated. But it gave me a certain sense of homecoming. So we introduced ourselves and Arturo and I are now friends. And then Bev and I smoked the Cohibas procured at Mario’s restaurant under the “beach hotel” only that morning, and I was happy.


And thus ended the third day.

Monday was involved almost entirely in travel, after a breakfast spent listening to the radio playing old pop songs by Enrique Iglesias and Alejandra Guzman and Shakira…it reminded me of living in Guadalajara and I was suddenly filled with a great love for Mexico. And all things. It was a brilliant weekend.

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Arizona Dreaming

Tucson during the monsoons is one of my favourite places…it’s one of my favourite places most times I have to admit. And my brother Dan is home for the summer, and my cousin Alana is living with my folks now, so it was a houseful and that is always nice.

On Saturday we went up to Mount Lemon, I remember some time ago coming home to see the entire mountain on fire, clouds of smoke in fantastic shapes, the air alive with the all the colour and smell and ash of fire…half of the mountains burned one year, and the rest in the next, along with most of Summerhaven (though the pie shop survived! My dad swears that was due to his prayers, and the prayers of everyone who has ever been there…). It is amazing to see how the trees living and dead show how fire skips and leaps, how it razes the side of mountains leaving patches of trees intact, how it jumps over the bottoms of arroyos, stops at the crests of hills. And the trees remind me of Scotland in the wintertime, I love their stark silhouettes against the sky and the distant views. Or I would if only these trees would also return to life come Spring. Still, they have an incredible beauty to them that I almost prefer to what was there before. I wonder why I prefer my beauty bleak?

Mt. Lemon after the fires

And here is another view of it…

We went up the ski lift…the first time I have ever done that in all the years we have been going up there! Here’s the family up at the top:

And my little brother out on the rocks at Windy Point…that’s Tucson in the background, only about 20 minutes down from the pine forest…it is an amazing thing to go from the Sonoran desert to forest in such a short time…

After the mountain we headed over to the Hut to see some amazing and funky music courtesy of Dan’s friends…everyone playing was good, and the rain was coming down in torrents outside, the thunder and lightening going off, the roof leaking…it was quite spectacular. Got home after 2, woke up early the next morning for brunch at Sun’s, and then saw the Dark Knight. Which was also spectacular. And I loved Heath Ledger. And the only bit that made me sad was when the Joker equated anarchy with chaos and said he stood for both…anarchy is not chaos, it is the opposite of it. So I damned the writers and the confusion of their politics but didn’t let it interfere with the rest of the movie. I definitely recommend it.

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Thunderstorms

I sat last night as the wind sent waves of rain sweeping under the porch, the lightening flashed bright in the darkness lighting up the sky, the thunder cracked loud. And I was happy the way I am always happy in a thunderstorm. An almost perfect moment, the feeling of being self-contained and content, entirely alive. In such moments I am myself, warm flesh and blood, heart beating. And also alive as part of the storm, greater than myself. And I was thinking I would like to find love like that. Based not on need or ownership but upon becoming something greater together. Two people alive and happy in the world, because life is so good; two people alive and struggling in the world because what we have made of it is not good at all. Two people complete in themselves and able to live completely. Two people together because being with the other makes this joy richer, the understanding deeper, the world’s colours more brilliant, because in sharing it with the other the world expands so that it is far greater then you could ever make it on your own…

I’m not sure what this requires, an equal certainly. A capacity to give of yourself without dependence, so different from independence without the capacity to give. An absence of selfishness, but a respect for the passions of the other and your own. Understanding the need for individual space as well as sharing to grow, and the need to challenge the other and to rise to their challenge. Trust and the solidity of someone who will tell you when you are fucking up and always be there when you need them. Passion and compassion. A delight in each other’s bodies and stories, thoughts and dreams. A simple delight in each other. A sharing of pain and suffering, and doing all you can to help it stop or make it less. Commitment to see the thing through. There’s probably much more, I haven’t even touched on eating habits, but…I wonder if it is at all possible, it must certainly be rare.

The light is beautiful, the sky is beautiful with dark clouds it up by the setting sun. The birds are all singing, there is a cardinal on the phone lines, a hummingbird and finches are flitting about the mulberry tree. I hear cactus wrens and a gila mockingbird, I love knowing the songs of the birds around me. I miss it when I am away from the desert. I am not less when I cannot match a bird to its song, such knowledge simply makes me greater.

Hangover and hope

This morning I woke up cruda, cruda as I rarely am and so my head hurt and my stomach roiled and I had to get up far too early and I spent the day in rather a self-pitying lethargy with a hungry eye for any flat surface that looked remotely possible to nap on…last night was worth it of course, one of those nights where you get to talk on and on about writing and politics with someone who understands both and where you have enough in common to establish a sound basis of trust and liking and enough difference that you can really get into some interesting points and challenge yourself. I love those nights, they make life more brilliant. It was worth the pain of this morning.
And so today was a lost cause, but this evening? This evening I was glad to be human and alive and here in L.A…glad that I am not an organizer anymore, but a friend. Today I had a meeting with some of the folks I was once paid to work with, and of course I believe organizers should be paid, far more than they are paid really. But it is so good to be just a friend now, it is something beautiful to volunteer with people to take control of the institutions we created together before I left. Years of my life and theirs…tonight I watched these women step into their own potential, I watched them speak where they were once silent, I watched them fight for what they believe in and I know that this is how change happens. They will be strong enough to ensure true community control I think, and me and Leo will be there when they need help, and the inexpressible beauty of such a thing is beyond words really. Thus the cynic in me, who generally works fueled on pure rage, actually regained something beautiful and true and so happiness is mine. And I think all of my theories are right…I think I’m right and that’s always nice. Of course there are still a lot of holes, a lot of fodder for future nights of alcohol (though perhaps less of it) and passionate discussion and the writing of it and a lot of work to continue to put into practice what I think, ’tis doubtful I shall live long enough to sort it.

And so on the way home I endured the sour stink of alcohol and the unending stream of cars along the freeway and stared at the burnished piece of moon, it shone in the dark sky and lit up the clouds…the small specks of cloud that clustered around it. And I reimagined the world.

The Los Angeles Blue Line

I love them I know, and I also know I write about them a lot. I don’t know why the rest of my day doesn’t inspire me the way the ride home does.

I had a lovely evening, spent with friends that I haven’t seen in ages and haven’t really talked to for years, we met up at Masa in Echo Park and then they kicked us out for a hipster wedding party and I damned gentrification and we walked a couple of blocks to Barragan’s. Masa’s used to be called Carmelos, it was a brilliant cuban place that had been there for decades with pink booths and a counter the old men used to sit at and drink their cafe con leche, and they sold magical pasteles de guayava y queso, and platanos and all things nice. Now it’s dark and candlelit with brown booths and tatooed waitstaff and really good microbrews on tap and the food is nice too…it’s just all twice as expensive.

And we drank and told stories of course, and it was just what my heart needed…such evenings are rare in L.A. because they require so much coordination…Almost everyone I love most is here and I feel like I never see them enough. The people I see are on the train. I wanted to write a novel once about the train, how it was a portal to some other place, to some much better place where everything was flipped around and the poor were rich and the sad happy, and the crazy were sane…that the woman in the floor-length faux-fur leopard skin coat was the key, or the old guy passed out in his seat. I never wrote it, the raw reality of the train itself defeated me, this world we have created…

There was a crazy guy playing porter today along the blue line, he was frighteningly crazy, with his lips pulled back and jagged teeth and no touch of awareness in his gaze, he could not speak only yell words barely recognizeable. At each stop he got out and held the door and shouted what might have been all aboard, and ushered the people in who were brave enough to choose his door…we lost him at firestone station as the people poured in and filled the car completely, he continued to hold the door as the warning bells chimed again and again and sacraficed his place so the last family could jump on. It was his moment, and as he watched the train leave he was shining.

My friend with the glasses bearing white 50 cent flags stuck on each side and selling candy with a smooth fast sales pitch that makes everyone smile was on the train today, he had almost sold everything.

A man younger then me sat quietly on the bottom of the steps leading up to the green line, he held a forty in a brown paper bag and threw up to one side casually as though he were just spitting. Once, and again, and once again. The smell of it was sickly, and it mingled with the sour stink of beer to fill the air.

An old guy told me he loved me. He was too drunk to really speak and drink had marked his face as it’s own and I was too sad to do more then smile. He might have meant to say something else, maybe he didn’t love me after all. But his eyes never left my face and when he followed me onto the green line I realized he walked only with great difficulty and a congenital limp…and the fact remained he was frighteningly drunk and therefore unpredictable and I hate to be stared at and I was glad when he got off at the first stop.

My friend from a few weeks ago was on the train as well, the one who had a crush on Hillary Clinton…he had lost the one sock he had, but had acquired shoes that did not fit his swollen feet. He had a large black book with a red logo, and on it he beat an irregular rhythm and sang a song to himself in a language that probably only he could understand. The smell of him was terrible, and his clothes were falling off of him and he was doing far worse then when I saw him last.

I saw everyone with ghetto hard faces, the kind that say don’t fuck with me, I could hurt you. You have to wear it to wall out the overpowering need of others, to protect yourself, to create your own distance from what is around you. If you don’t live here you never see those faces transformed, masks melted away where it is safe, and people return to the way they ought to be. I lost my mask in Scotland, but I feel it creeping into the set of my lips sometimes…when I think about it I do not want it back, but there is a price to pay for that. Unconsciously your face hardens.

I biked home through the darkness and the smell of flowers, and laid out on the grass for a while to search for stars. If I could have any power at all, any gift, I do believe I would sacrifice my lifelong dream of flying for the ability to heal people. There are layers upon layers of what is broken and I know the scale of it…but it is the brokenness of my people on the train one by one that breaks my heart.

The next blog shall be funny, I solemnly swear.

evening

I sit in the conservatory and the light is liquid gold, luminous, impossibly beautiful in those few minutes at close of day when magic seizes your heart and makes it whole…too whole, almost overflowing and the overflow is what you hunger for through your mundane hours, but this moment, glorious and still, like the culmination of passion, the peak of happiness, the eye in the storm it holds you and wraps you round and whispers to you in the falling rain and the world is perfect beauty even with you in it, as flawed and hungry and uncertain of anything as you are, and the moment fades to be replaced with a sadness, and dusk comes on surely now, the darkness creeping over green fields and the flowering apple tree, clouds lit up from behind in pale yellow and silver move swiftly across the horizon and just as you wonder if it is just over there that your destiny lies, the world lights up again with the moving clouds, a reprieve and a second golden time, a hint of blue sky on the horizon, golden light pouring like the rain around you, I love these days of rain and sun, love gold filled light and the pounding of water, it is luminous again, magical again, more beautiful after having prepared oneself for the dying of the light, it gives me hope. For what I don’t know, just hope is enough, a quiet undemanding sort of hope, the hope that carries peace with it, not the demanding torments of passion or desire or blind need.

The blue sky is now encircled by clouds, deep black heavy laden ones running low, a thin line of glowing white ones above. This place is beautiful. I am glad I am here, there is nowhere I would rather be. That makes me smile, it might be a bit sad my smile, bittersweet is life, I taste it on my tongue. I am always amazed at how fast storm clouds move, I remember watching them before the monsoons hit in Arizona, amazing that they race the same over desert and green farmland. Another thing bringing these two worlds together besides me, I have trouble sometimes reconciling myself with myself, I am too many things to exist in one person I think, but watching the clouds race calms me down, I lose myself in them like I lose myself in the light, my inner voice stills and finds silence and I am content. Even as the dusk falls surely now, the darkness comes…

Apple Valley

Just got back from a little staff retreat at Highland Springs in Apple Valley…how much do I love the people I work with??  Thursday late morning we drove up and did a lot of work, then we swam, lay by the pool, relaxed in the sauna, ate a dinner we didn’t have to cook, played a little soccer, drank beers and margaritas and told a lot of very funny and very innapropriate stories (which I cannot relate here in mixed company) until really late.

I got up early in spite of the late night, the fact that I was still a little drunk probably helped with that, and went for a hike, it is such a beautiful place!  The path initially went straight up…here is one of the views:

And I believe this is what I would look like if I could ever find the courage to get up onto a pair of stilts…

Walked and ran back down, had breakfast, did some more work, swam, laid by the pool, relaxed in the sauna…mmm….lovely.

We had seen the signs for a cherry festival in Beaumont, so we decided to stop on the way back home and pick up some cherries, and some pies, and some funnel cake and who knew what else?  There was a little carnival but the first thing that met our eyes was this shining example of carnie culture…

And guess who else was there?

Yep…God.  We were pretty excited until we found out that not only was it $5 to get in, but that with all of our crazy weather, and possibly global warming, there were in fact no cherries.  Although tempted to pay $5 just to ask God how he could allow a tragedy like this to happen and possibly hit him in the eye, I sadly piled back into the car and Bev drove off.  At the edge of Beaumont we passed El Rancho restaurant and cocktails,

But  no one else was feeling the same uncontrollable urge to stop there and fill up on MGD so we continued on, back to home sweet home…

Disgusting que no?  Just imagine what the inside of my lungs looks like breathing in all of this crap!  Everytime I come back to LA I ask myself, why oh why do I live here?  Soon, soon I’ll be gone.  That little white flash of light middle left is Gehry’s Disney Hall by the way, isn’t it shiny?  I live about 10 blocks from there, in the heart of the smoggy darkness…

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