Thursday, February 19, 2009

Been a long time, baby.

Where on earth have I been?
Revved into the engine of daily life, reporting to my Junior High School students, promoting my book.

Sleeping in any nook of time I can find free, freeing my cats from their need for love by giving them all I've got, grabbing what sun I can get, getting ready for Taos and Natalie Goldberg next week, weakening in the face of chocolate chip cookies, cooking lots of soup, sappily loving my partner, partnering up in the face of great change, changing my wardrobe a bit because black, it's true yes, is more elegant, elongating my stories and spending time writing more of the same things instead of something new every week, more than weekly yoga. Yo. Gotta go do some more of all these things. Thanks for following. Thanks for listening. I'll be back soon enough with reviews and love for all of you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Danger of Reading Two Books at Once

History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
(fictional tale about a post-plague world in which the dead live in a sort of purgatory until everyone they've known has also died, then they disappear)
Amazing Grace, a Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris
(memoir/spiritual exploration of rediscovering Christianity in the woman's original home town in North Dakota, despite everyone else's skepticism)

Last night, I dreamt I was a visiting pastor in a small town in Midwest America. I walked to the house where I was staying, very sort of mid-century 1800's, as if life were frozen in time out there on the western edge of farm land. The sand kicked up around me and I passed the church where I would be preaching. Why was I there? Who knew. But I liked the family I was staying with as soon as I met them, and they liked me. The perfect balance of propriety and humor. Secular in a lot of ways, but also appreciating the sacred. The first night I went to bed thinking "How am I going to do this? I am Buddhist!"

The next day I awoke and read some of the liturgy this little parish church was using. Everytime I saw the word "God" I felt I had an understanding of the presence they were talking about. Even cause and effect, though the science didn't match up, had its analogous understanding between the two religions. "I can do this," I realized as I drank my morning coffee, boiled on the stove like my mom did when I was a kid.

I walked to the church listening to the bells, running a bit late myself. There I gave a fiery sermon - not firey as in brimstone, but fiery with passion. I talked about everything they wanted to hear and never used the word "God" and they got it. They got it. I was elated, not with myself but with the power of faith.

I walked out of the church to find total disarray. Somehow during the one hour sermon the town had contracted a major plague and people were dead by the roadside and fleeing. I ran back quickly to the house where I was staying and also somehow managed to convince the parishoners to stay still and lock the door from the inside to keep the sick out of the church. Most of the family I loved already was dead. The father and a young girl remained. I rigged face masks for them and me, and we wandered out into the strangely dark midday. Plague, in its total biblical force, had hit everyone there one way or another. I knew it was not a matter of escape, rather, a matter of how gracefully we could die.

I led the father and girl back to the church, gave a secret knock and they let us in. We all sat in silence, some praying, some meditating, some just existing as its own form of appreciation. Very little panic was there. Mostly a sense of acceptance and calm. Even I dropped all my strategems and we sat silently and waited for fate.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Fate Family

Flash fiction piece (based on a dream I had last night)

Last night my mother asked me to commit suicide with her. It's not as bad as it sounds. No Hari Kari or shooting out the whole town on our way. This would be more of a sacrifice - not even a ritual sacrifice (she's not into that culty stuff). Actually, I have to admit I'm not entirely sure why she wants this. All I know is that I am the only sibling she asked and I feel honored. Sort of.

She has already thought it through thoroughly, how it will work. Father will dig and line a huge hole outside of our house with concrete. In it we'll add a few weeks' worth of recycling (turns out she's been saving pizza boxes for just this reason), and after she and I both drink some poison, we will be burned inside the concrete, keeping the family warm for days. It's not that cold here, that's what confuses me about her logic. I mean, we live in California and it's not even winter yet.

I love my mom. I'd do anything for her and for that matter, I haven't been too happy living lately except for when I spend time with her. My third boyfriend, Allen, broke up with me last week, saying I wasn't pretty enough for him, and I'm failing Algebra. So why not? Don't have much success with life.

Yet today, ever since she asked me last night and I woke up this morning, the trees seem lighter, freer, and greener than before. Even the collection of burnables my mother has been hoarding in the shed (I went out to see for myself) is beautiful: covered in late afternoon light, cobwebs already beginning to spread, parallel to the cardboard boxes or crossing the great divides between them. I don't find such perceptions confusing, I only find they confuse my answer, which I have yet to give her. Does this mean I should die or live? I can't tell whether or not this is a gift to someone who has given up or the universe trying to tell me not to go anywhere.

Tonight I came home from the dry club with my friends and mom was waiting on the couch. "Am I late?" I asked, certain I wasn't. "No, I just wanted to ask you if you've thought about what I said last night?"
She wasn't menacing, just mom-like. Wrapped in her pink robe, which I know by the scent she'd worn all day. Ever since dad got laid off she's had a hard time leaving the house. I had thought all day about what she had said, but I had no conclusions, which is, I know, what she wanted to hear from me - the final answer of final answers.
"I've been busy mom. Sorry. No chance to consider it yet."
"Don't wait too long, Sabrina. We only have so much time."
I kissed her on the cheek, not asking what that last comment was about, and went to bed.

I dreamt of Fire. I dreamt of our bodies burning under the wide sky. Hers first, then mine. And I couldn't bear the thought of watching my own body burn, even if were already dead.

I woke and saw the sun above me and let it go. All of it. Life and death. I went to my mother and told her I would not be dying with her. I needed to live.

And she said "Good."
And "I was hoping you'd say that."
And "Now let's go burn some marshmallows."