Monsoonytoons

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We had lightning in New York. But it wasn’t something you ever thought about, because in New York you were never the tallest thing around.

In New Mexico it’s entirely possible to be the tallest thing around, even if, like me, you’re just a scooch under five-foot-five. Doubly so if you live in Eldorado, which is about as flat as anything in the Santa Fe area ever gets.

So I’ve gotten up closer and more personal with lightning this past couple years than I ever did in the first thirty-eight of my life.

Last year during that psycho wrath-of-God monsoon, I was driving home in a panic (for one thing, I’d left all the windows open in my house, and for another, it was raining so hard I couldn’t see Old Las Vegas Highway beneath my balding tires), when, just a half mile or so from home, a bolt of the stuff went zapping, Hollywood blockbuster style, right across the road in front of my official-car-of-Santa-Fe Subaru.

Kerpow!

Bright white and jagged, it stitched the air like an angry child’s pen across construction paper, nearly horizontal, no higher than the hood of my SUV. An innocent bush just feet from my front tires disappeared into angry smoke. Moses, I thought, I think I get the astonishment you must have felt. But I was more interested in getting the hell out of Dodge right then than hearing the word of the lord.

I drove home, mopped up the puddles, and smiled to myself at my first true monsoon moment.

This year, I’ve been aching for the rains as do all of us who live here, watching the weather reports, thirsting for something to tamp down the dust and let us know life will be sustainable in the high desert just a little while longer. And last night, as I drove home from the house of a friend in the true darkness you never, ever get to experience in Manhattan, I found myself all alone and electrified as countless flashes illuminated the sky. Again, again, again, while thunder rent the heavens and the wind whipped in all directions. Again, high in the clouds, low on the horizon, seemingly from every corner of the firmament, the sky alight and full of unimaginable force.

I rolled the windows down, smelling ozone, smelling life, and knew again why I moved here.

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Happier Trails

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Today was the first day I woke up and didn’t want to be carried out of my situation. Didn’t want to be distracted, stultified, or seduced away from what is – and what isn’t – in my life right now.

Didn’t want inappropriate boys, or social media, season finales on my DVR or house listings on Zillow to send me swirling away from the unquiet, restive core of me.

I’ve been making anything and everything my higher power; any chance delight, siren song, or sultry promise – and why not? When all is lost, all crumbles and stumble-stutters to silence, any faint-heard tune sounds like direction, whether it’s new, or all-too painfully familiar.

Today I didn’t want to dance to any old red-shoe ballet. I wanted to look dead-on at the truths I know right now. To wit: my sangfroid has been smashed, and what was light and firmly armored in me during the years of my marriage is all unraveled now. And at the core, the things I liked, loved, made daily bread of – all mean so much nothing.

But that doesn’t mean I spin out of all reckoning, all recognition of my self and self-love, and the smarts I worked so hard to secure over a decade of dedicated recovery. I don’t lose my wits, nor what is deserving in me of care and comfort.

I don’t toss myself into the wind.

I step into it, instead.

Dale Ball Trail2

Today I took myself out into the sunshine so abundant here in Santa Fe. I let my fair skin freckle and weather brown until my watchband demarcated both time and seared skin against paler, protected flesh. I let the bees buzz in my ears and told Facebook to fuck off, it didn’t need to tell my tale. I drove with windows down and hair whipping stinging strands across my eyes and nineties-era mystery tunes shouting out my car stereo from mix lists made in days I no longer recall even faintly.

I trod trails that, two years prior when I carted up them forty pounds of swallowed sorrow and two hundred twenty of equally unhappy husband, seemed arduous and sere. Today they were full of holiday hikers with grey-muzzled dogs, muscular mountain bikes, modern, moisture-wicking miracle fiber windbreakers and sun hats and Merrell boots and every kind of right to be there. The earth was rich-saturated red with the early monsoon rain that rescued us two days running, the clouds still swollen and piggish with the promise of possibly more.

I felt myself just partly present; my legs strong and lungs up to the task that once winded me. My nose sniffed the strong juniper and piñon scents with gratitude, my eyes touched tenderly upon the agave blooming with rude and robust once-a-year sex spears as my feet sank spongy into that still-giving earth. My mind registered what great good fortune it was to occupy this particular place on earth, yet all the while remained full as well of things I wished it wouldn’t – of people and possibilities and emotions I don’t control.

Still. It was better than I’d hoped for, and a blessing I’ll not forswear for being small.

And when the little electronic iPhone chimes pinged to tell me my diversions still waited, still teased, still threatened to steal what little I do yet know of myself, I wasn’t quite so eager as before to leap upon their call. I wanted to hold on to my center, small and scared as it is.

It may yet be some time before this little life, this solo life, seems good and right and proper; ‘til it has savor and I crave nothing more. I may not want to write lighthearted fiction for a while to come. I may find myself easily bruised, or distracted, or yearn for the false comfort of low-hanging but forbidden fruit.

I will certainly make mistakes.

But today for the first time since the divorce I didn’t feel a panic at being in my life. I felt that empty was okay; not shameful, and perhaps even, eventually, a gift.

A Day of Blessed Little Nothings

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I woke up this morning thinking, “I want to be able to say I turned a corner today.”

I wasn’t sure I was actually feeling corner-turny, but I got a notion like this was something that maybe, in the woo-woo way of Santa Fe, I could “manifest” if I wanted it badly enough.

Maybe it wasn’t a 90-degree corner. Maybe I just kinda-sorta oodged around a very slight bend. Maybe tomorrow I’ll sigh, and say, “I haven’t gotten anywhere at all.” But today was one of those warm, quiet, singularly Santa Fe days, where nothing much happens but just being here still feels like balm for the soul.

I paid some bills. I worked on my day job. I got a perfectly lovely haircut, and looked at a perfectly cozy little house I don’t think I want to buy after all. I ate some uninspiring leftovers, and drank way the fuck too much Diet Coke out of a tall, tall glass with lots of lovely ice.

And my heart didn’t feel breakish at all, the whole day.

Who Knew? I’m a Ham!

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Last night I had the privilege of reading and signing copies of my novel BLISS at the venerable Collected Works Bookstore here in Santa Fe. (It is the premiere indie bookstore in town, woo hoo!) The owner Dorothy made me most welcome, and the very talented Candace Walsh, who wrote the memoir Licking the Spoon, was kind enough to introduce me.

Allowing the BLISS to wash over me, all windswept-like.

Allowing the BLISS to wash over me, all windswept-like.

I wore my favorite Anthropologie dress, and a pair of heels that hurt the hell out of my feet, but even so armored, I was quite nervous! My mouth was dry as dust, and my hands were trembling.  Until I stepped on the little stage, coughed into the mic, and started to read…

Me at the podium (ie, giant spatula-like thing)

Me at the podium (ie, giant spatula-like thing)

It took me a few sentences, but pretty soon I was really enjoying myself!  I even started doing some of my characters’ voices and gestures, drawing out lines for suspense…

Getting into the swing of things

Getting into the swing of things

And I felt rather saucy! I mention this only because I’m the last person who enjoys having a spotlight on her. My husband is an actor, and I’ve always admired his ability to lay it all out there on stage, while feeling “oh, I could never do that myself!” I’m a classic, garden variety introvert, and I like to be appreciated for my wit on the page, rather than the stage. But I do have to confess, it was a blast hearing people’s reactions to my words; getting the meaning across just the way I wanted it to be received, and getting instant feedback in the form of laughter and smiles.

Rapt audience?

Rapt audience?

And after I knocked ’em dead with chapter 4 (ok, mildly amused them), Candace did a little interview with me and I totally didn’t make a massive ass of myself.

Q&A with Candace after the reading

Q&A with Candace after the reading

I wouldn’t say this public speaking stuff is my forte, but I will say that it was a surprisingly fun time, and I’m looking forward to more!

Me hamming it up with BLISS

Me hamming it up with BLISS