Monthly Archives: January 2017

a mighty fine day

A good day is one with an ocean in it.
A mighty good day is one with an ocean and a horse in it.
A mighty fine day is one with an ocean, a horse, and a whale in it.

Today was a mighty fine day.

Living on a horse ranch on the edge of the continent produces some mighty fine days. Today I greeted the sunrise and got a front row seat to the Dawn Chorus. Hummingbirds, jays, thrashers, quail, crows, and who knows who else sang the sun up. Hallelujah.

On my way out to hike down to the ocean, I stop to talk to Susan, who’s washing her horse Cisko. Shadow looks at me from his box stall.

“Time for brushing,” says Susan.

Shadow agrees, so I put my towel down and change into my stable boots (they’re rubber, so muck washes off easily).

Why is it so satisfying to brush a dirty horse? Well, Shadow in particular blisses out to the extent that his eyes close, and his head hangs low. Occasionally he smacks his lips.

Today I decided to see if he’d let me pick up his hooves and clean them. He did. Why did this make me happy? Schadenfreude, probably. His “owner” doesn’t do it, afraid he’ll be kicked. One point for me, or four, if you count all the hooves.

Found a tick in Shadow’s fur, drowned it. Found another one later on my Levi’s, flicked it off. Still a mighty fine day. Especially for the tick that lived.

Down on the dunes, I see spouts on the other side of the breakers. And then — breach, baby! A blue whale, I think. Many spouts are farther out, just these two close to shore.

After weeks of storms and rain, it’s delicious to lie in the warm sand. It’s mid-winter, but the temperature (for a few hours) feels like summer. A couple of boys play football, a family tosses a frisbee around, there’s a fisherman or two. A few brave souls venture into the water, only to come straight out again.

I hike to one of my swim spots and change into my bathing suit. After diving under a wave, I jog out again. The tide is receding. Yesterday I caught a sweet wave that carried me to shore.

Back at the ranch, I cook pasta with spinach and pulled chicken. I sit by the western window and watch the sun set as I eat.

My neighbor is downstairs. I overhear her talking about gigs. Eventually I hear music — a violin, guitar, voices. She’s rehearsing. I have not been invited. A few months ago, she started a band. “You’re part of it,” she said. Evidently not.

Exclusion sure feels shitty. This mighty fine day just took a nosedive. How do I deal with this? In the past — and rejection is a theme in the life of a writer-performer — I ignored it. Never let on that anyone had hurt my feelings.

“I didn’t even think of you,” this neighbor said a while back. Hmmm. Do I really need friends who don’t remember I exist?

No.

Probably it’s best if I’m not in this particular band. I suppose if I want I can start one myself. I’ve written enough songs for my own 30 minute gig. But is this really where I want to put my energy? Hmmm, let’s think about it.

It’s the exclusion that smarts. But what is actually best for me? As far as I know, this is only the second rehearsal in three months. When I was in Mozart’s Children we rehearsed weekly, at the very least. For dance performances, I rehearse daily. So, we’ve definitely got different work ethics, my neighbor and I. It’s not enough to say you’re in a band, you have to actually set aside the time and show up.

Besides, our musical tastes differ too. I’m tired of cynical sad songs. I don’t want to add to the collective misery of the planet, especially with Voldemort in the White House. Now is the time for rousing, radical renditions of We Shall Overcome, and as many love songs as possible. Joy, baby, righteous joy. That’s what I’m after.

So, I accept her exclusion. It still stings, but maybe I’ve been spared a bunch of nonsense and wasted time. And just like that, with the slivered moon setting after the sun into the Big Blue, my mighty fine day is back.

Hallelujah.

Montaña de Oro sunset
Montaña de Oro sunset

Advertisements

SLO March

It’s Saturday morning, January 21, and I’m nervous.

I’m on my way to the Women’s March in San Luis Obispo (SLO), in support of the Women’s March on Washington D.C. I don’t know what to expect. I’m a pacifist, but are the other marchers? What about the on-lookers? or the ones who voted for Voldemort? Will there be violence? Will I be arrested? Harmed?

I don jewelry from both grandmothers, a necklace for a dead friend, my red wool coat, my purple marching boots, and finally my cowgirl hat. I’m ready. ID, debit card, cash, and phone in various pockets, so I can march without a purse.

It’s easy to find Mitchell Park, the starting point. I can hear the rally from blocks away, and I follow the streams of people carrying signs and banners downtown.

“¿Allá?” asks a woman holding a Freedom! sign. She gestures down the street.

“Sí,” I say, and our paths converge.

“I’m Courtney,” says another woman in answer to my introduction. “This is my husband Kai.” We both admit to being excited.

Hispanic, Caucasian, Black, Indian, Native, Asian; babies, elders, teens, adults; hippies, veterans, bellydancers, students, poets, doctors — we are all smiling at each other, thrilled that so many thousands have shown up on this wintry day in central California.

The signs are fabulous:
Now you’ve pissed off Grandma!
We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn
Bridges not Barriers
We are PRO American
We the People are WATCHING

I drift away from the gazebo and the rallying crowds. I spy orange and pink feathers on several heads in the street. Could it be? Yes! A samba band! I make my way over there, and that’s where I am when the march starts. The band starts playing, and I start dancing. I danced the entire route.

This is my kind of revolution.

Women's March San Luis Obispo

emergency rooms

“Mom, I think I hurt myself,” I say, walking up the path toward her and the house. She’s talking to Dana, but she looks up immediately.

I am holding my hand over my right eye. Blood is dripping down. My brother had been chasing me around Dana’s truck, both of us laughing ourselves silly. When I leaped off the curb, I bashed into the open back window. You know those cantilevered metal-framed windows in the back of covered pickup trucks that open up and out? Super sharp corners? Bam! Into that corner, my eyebrow.

“Into the truck,” she says, “both of you. Dana, you’re driving.” She runs into the house, coming back with her purse and gauze and antiseptic.

It doesn’t hurt. Yet. Later, my mother tells me that she thought I’d poked my eye out. But she is seemingly calm right now, my physical therapist mother.

She directs Dana to Marina Mercy. “Left here,” she says, and he turns off Lincoln Boulevard into the hospital’s Emergency driveway.

Their Emergency Room is clean and quiet and pretty, with indirect lighting and upholstered chairs. No one is screaming or bleeding. Well, I’m still bleeding, but it’s slowing down.

Our health insurance is Kaiser, so they can’t help us, but the nurses change the gauze pad anyway, and tell my mother that I will be okay. She exhales.

Medical professionals respect my mother. She’s one of theirs, speaks the lingo. She is competent, capable, and calm. So I am, too.

“Hold on, Susie,” she says as we get back in Dana’s truck. My brother Jim is uncharacteristically silent throughout this adventure, his blue eyes huge and anxious. He’s six or so, I’m twelve and much taller. That seemed important in those days. Big sister Susie.

Kaiser’s only a few miles south, but a world apart in terms of compassionate care. In their Emergency Room we wait for hours to be seen. Every so often someone wails in pain. It’s crowded and stinks of fear sweat. The nurses are curt, overworked.

Fortunately the bleeding has stopped. I lean against my mom in the adjoining plastic chair bolted to the floor. The fluorescent light hurts my eyes so I close them. My head throbs.

Dana takes Jimbo outside, or to the cafeteria, I don’t know. I am receding, letting the world and noise and light get further and further away …

The nurse calls my name and we follow her to a small room. “Lie down,” she says and gestures to a small operating table covered with white paper. I grip my mother’s hand, and she nods at me to comply.

The doctor comes in. A man in a white coat, dark hair, glasses. I think he tried to get my mother to leave, but I would not let go of her. She stayed.

The worst pain was when they poured anesthetic into the wound. It burned, and I cried out. Looked at my mom. Her face was whiter than usual, but it was her face. The one I love. The one that loves me. Big mouth. Long black hair. Big brown-sometimes-green eyes. She does not let go of my hand, just looks at me. I don’t remember any words. Many times she and I didn’t need to speak: we just knew.

The doctor went away for a few minutes, “while you get numb.” He smiles at my mother on the way out.

Eighteen stitches. That’s how many it took to sew up the gash in my forehead. And I heard every single one of them. From inside my head. It didn’t hurt, but it was bizarre to hear something through my skull instead of my ears.

By the time we got out of there, it was night. “Kentucky Fried?” asks my mom. A special treat. Expensive.

“Yeah!” says Jim.

“Susie?” asks Mom.

“Yeah,” I say, and hold her hand all the way home.

Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and PT student at Walter Reed General Hospital, my mother applies ultra-sound and deep heat therapy to a patient a year and a half before I'm born.
Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and PT student at Walter Reed General Hospital, my mother applies ultra-sound and deep heat therapy to a patient a year and a half before I’m born.

Shoulda Done It Differently Blues

I began writing this song while walking the dunes in Montaña de Oro. When I catch me shoulding on myself, singing the chorus breaks up the critical racket in my head, and helps me stop. Note: work in progress!

Shoulda Done It Differently Blues

(Chorus)
I shoulda done it differently
coulda done it better
I got the shoulda-done-it-differently blues

(repeat)

Red-faced dad
shakes his head
“What were you thinkin’, girl?

Grandma says,
“Leave her alone
it’s a coulda-done-it-differently world!

(Chorus)
(repeat)

The boss is late.
So what’s new?
What were you thinkin’, girl?

Don’t you know?
It’s your attitude
in a coulda-done-it-differently world!

(Chorus)
(repeat)

Landlord calls,
“Your rent is late.
What were you thinkin’, girl?”

But he’s wrong
Shoulda checked his mate
in this coulda-done-it-differently world

The horse is strong
patient, and kind
What are you thinkin’, girl?

That we belong,
and soon he’ll be mine
in this coulda-done-it-differently world

(Chorus)
I shoulda done it differently
coulda done it better
I got the shoulda-done-it-differently blues

(repeat)

©Elizabeth Shé 2017

dance it out

Sometimes I have so much to say that I can’t say anything. I don’t know where to begin. So I dance. I can express anger, sorrow, bewilderment, power, joy, longing, satisfaction, and fear with my body. I don’t even need that much space, but it’s nice if I have it. Outdoors is fun, weather permitting.

For some reason, though I majored in choreography at Cornish College, I do not dance as often as I like or need. It seems to be, must be, similar to my need for the ocean. Looking at it’s fine and dandy for a while, but it ain’t the real thing, the jump-in-the-friggin-cold-ass-water deep-seated need. Like a vitamin. I think dance is that way for me, too: a vitamin, a mineral, a necessary component for a healthy body.

When I was 26 I thought my dancing days were over, and even wrote a poem to that effect. So going to Cornish to study dance at age 30 was a revelation. I wasn’t even the oldest dancer there. (I was second oldest, if you don’t count the teachers, and why wouldn’t you?)

Turns out, my definition of dance is too narrow. Can you move your body through space? with or without music? You can dance.

“We can dance if we want to,” sing Men Without Hats.

I want to.

Elizabeth Shé performs her work, Love Translated Too, in downtown Olympia WA USA
Elizabeth Shé performs her work, Love Translated Too, in downtown Olympia WA USA