Tomorrow, our daughter Johanna arrives from Italy for a ten-day visit divided between Sebastopol and San Francisco. This is an annual delight, an absolute affirmation of spring. Come fall, we reverse the direction and go to spend time in her beautiful woodland home. Whichever direction, it’s nectar for my soul.
Johanna gave me my first vision of femininity. I grew up with a lady in her fifties, in no way a role model for a little girl. At some point her exasperation with me hit a limit, and she announced that while I might qualify as female, I was certainly not feminine. Well, hey, neither was she. We were both clueless.
Then I became the mother of a son. Any baby was from the moon, as far as I knew. I did two years of mothering with a boy-child as my center, and that more or less set the parameters. Then hey, here comes a daughter, from a different moon, and everything required recalibration. Reboot, reset, pay attention.
The Bible pays a lot of attention to the child who “opens the womb.” Yes, everything changes profoundly at that point for the mother. But in my case, my second engendering was as profound an opening, unlocking neglected hallways of my soul. We have trod a long, complicated and colorful path together, Johanna and I, and every reunion is a new fragrance.
Take care of my girl, Lufthansa, and may the gatekeepers at SFO’s CBP give her a welcome passage. They don’t have to hire a brass band, but a little courtesy would be appreciated.
We’re starting on the second draft of a new novel CHEMO and also working on the front yard. There are similarities.
The challenge with the novel is that it’s a big mess: a plot full of holes, a narrator whose digressions wear thin after chapter two, and an overriding confusion on what the hell it’s about. I think it holds promise.
The front yard: one side has always been weird and wild, and we’ve found a way, I think, to preserve the weird-wild while making it seem intentional, creating little strategic hamlets of order amid the chaos. It’s the other side that presents the challenge.
Long ago we extirpated all the grass from it and transplanted little divots of moss that we scraped from walkways and brickwork thereabouts, creating a lush carpet of green. It’s survived raccoons ripping up clawfuls foraging for grubs, the constant invasion of baby-tears, an annual fall of redwood duff and maple leaves, and spans of benign neglect.
Now, however, a new challenge: patches of a scaly gray-green fungus or lichen that’s created mangy patches among the moss. From a distance it blends right in, but up close it’s a skin disease. In some spots I can pick it out of the moss with the tip of a paring knife, kneeling with my sun-worshipping butt in the air. Other spots require genocide. We excise four to six square inches, scrape more moss from the walkway, and replant it, water it, stomp it down, and hope for the best. Thus far it holds promise. I might in fact make a new career in hair restoration, if green hair becomes the fashion.
Rewrites and replantings have a primal commonality. With writing, the difference is that while you’re gouging out the mange, it’s likely to be mange you’re very fond of, beautifully crafted mange, cutting-edge mange, deeply felt mange. And then you have to scrape your calicified brainpaths for appropriate organics, paste it in, hope it takes root.
Yet no one sentenced us to write a novel or sculpt a moss garden, so our complaints are suspect, we readily admit. Still, at times complaining can be fun and may even attain the stature of art, if we can keep the fungus out of it.