Some months stand out in our lives, and for me, this will be one of those months. As July comes to a close (phew!), I will say that I’m quite happy for the fresh start of August. I love warmth–hate to feel that to-the-bone chill–and usually adore the hot summer months. But the extreme drought in California has tipped that perspective in a different direction.
We have evacuated from our home twice this month due to nearby fires. After last summer, we know the adrenaline-pumping drill and had time (well, 30 minutes in one instance) to put our pets in their travel crates (first step ALWAYS), race around the house and gather up goods like computers, clothes, and toiletries while listening to the scanner for updates. For anyone who has ever been through a home evacuation due to a fire–my heart is with you. For us, it’s a mix of terror and total gratitude that we even have the time to evacuate in the first place, and a whole lot of praying to the Gods to protect our home, our neighborhood, our wild animals that surround us in the woods.
My heart breaks into a million tiny shards when a family of deer watch me load my car in preparation to leave. I want everyone to climb in the car with us–the deer, the squirrels, the turkeys, the birds. Everyone is confused by the panicked rush, the planes sweeping and diving overhead and dropping retardant, the call of sirens. As we leave, we see neighbors packing their cars, watering their yards to help guard, and under the red glow that hovers, it makes for an eerie departure.
Bambi (taken before evacuation)
Mama and baby turkeys (taken before evacuation)
Thanks to the amazing work of superheroes (firefighters), we were able to return to our home both times. HOME!! When I say I want to wrap my arms around my home and hug it, I mean it in the most desperate of ways. The next morning, while filled with gratitude and exhaustion, we sat outside on the terrace as is our routine, and smiled generously as the turkeys and deer tramped by, the birds called from the trees. Everyone was HOME.
Also this month, my step grandfather–the gritty and spirited motorcycle racing legend, Doug Wilson–passed away. Well over 200 people attended his memorial–and even the local auto parts stores closed in order for the employees to attend. Amazing. I didn’t last as long as I would’ve liked–I’m a massively weepy weenie when it comes to public shows of immense pride, honor, respect, and kindness. (I don’t even need to know the person to become a puddle.)
To add some fun and delight to the mix of the month, one of my best buds Dara came for her annual visit. We trekked to the lake for lunch a couple of times, watched little baby ducks swim with their mother, and lounged, chatted, ate delicious food, and drank delicious adult beverages in the evening on the terrace. A marvelous week all around–and so good to have a best girl-pal to laugh and lounge with.
Every day this month–even when emotionally exhausted or while Dara was visiting–I spent at least a handful of hours working on the current book. I’m nearing done with it–and I have to say that it’s been such an emotionally charged month for me (I won’t even mention politics–wait I just did–but it certainly factors in), that I imagine some of that emotion seeped into the manuscript. Because my job requires me to express emotional honesty, this month has given me new boosts of soul-deep gratitude for my family, for my home, my friends, and for the incredible work of brave men and women who fight fires and keep us safe.
Some people provide us with life (my mom), some people provide us with a laughter so lovely (my mom) and a shoulder so ready to receive a good cry (my mom). Some people provide a haven for a person to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually (my mom.)
My mom is a beautiful being who declared while in college that she was going to work in education. She became a teacher, a special ed teacher for severely handicapped children, then a principal, then the only female school superintendent in California (at that time), then, after retiring, was elected to the local school board.
My mom has had a strong intention to work in education–to give her intelligence, her compassion, her love, to educate children. This has always been what she has navigated toward, and she has done so without bold stripes or loud declarations. My mom simply lives the life she wants to live, goes in the direction that aligns with what matters most to her, and all else gets very little attention (like negativity or naysayers). Again, she does not do this starkly or with blatant abandon, but rather with subtle confidence and striking self-reliance which is visible if you’re lucky enough to witness it, and astute enough to pay attention to it.
My mom taught me to honor my inner compass, to live compassionately and confidently. She is my best friend. She is beautiful inside and out and I am so grateful to be her daughter.
Happy Mother’s Day. Cheers to all of you who live life according to your intention, your inner compass, even on days when it’s difficult and/or you face opposition–whether from others or within your mind.
Some people just stick with us. For me, I find that the people who stick with me, the lasting memories, are very specific and not generally what would be considered “obvious.”
Last week began with the news of our dear family friend, Maggi BB, passing away. My parents were–sigh–on their way to visit Maggi in the bay area when I got word and called to tell them. I also relayed the news to several people–each time difficult, some more than others. So after that was done, I went to have my own moment, to process the news for myself. My pup and I walked over to Maggi’s beloved home in the mountains, and I sat in her colorful garden, listening to the quiet. Listening for Maggi in the quiet.
To say that she was part of our lives would be an understatement. She was PRESENT in our lives, bringing her lively, colorful spirit with her, always, all ways. Christmas evening she would join us for dinner, bringing with her a treasure trove of earrings she’d collected throughout the year, and would let each of us ladies pick a pair. At our birthday parties, she would show up wearing some vibrant ensemble–usual for her–and stand up in front of everyone and sing a spontaneous Birthday Song, making the lyrics and dance moves up on the fly.
She lived bravely. She lived colorfully. Her past–while I only know hints of it–were colored with some darkness. And her life, in later years, was lived brightly, with bold colors and a big heart. She loved humans fearlessly, she wasn’t afraid to say she was afraid of something, and she made us all feel special.
Some of what I will remember most will be: her voice, the way she spoke, the cadence of her voice. She spoke like a mystic. She would speak and make expressive sounds with wavy tones, especially if she was feeling frisky, and always end with a FLOURISH! Maybe a clap of hands! Then she’d laaaaaaaugh. She spoke as if she had a fun secret to share–even if she was speaking about a new water filter she’d purchased.
I will remember when she came over to my newly renovated pied-à-terre and got tears in her eyes as she told me how lovely my new home was, how happy she was for me. And, because Maggi was Maggi, she walked around doing a spontaneous blessing in every area of the place. (see above Birthday Song–very similar approach)
I will remember when I was housesitting at my parents’ house and a deer died in the driveway. No joke. Just died right in the driveway. I called Maggi and said, horrified, “What on earth do I do about this?” Without a second thought, she gathered up her handyman and came over, and she chatted with me, making me laugh, while he kindly removed the deer from the driveway.
I will remember not just how eccentric she was, but how authentic she was. She had this ability to be whimsical and silly and fun, and at the same time, speak gently, compassionately, and earnestly from her heart.
She loved life. She loved living it her way. And she lived it beautifully.
And now, Maggi BB is dancing in the stars, I’m sure of it.
I’m so excited to announce that Villa Blue, a new contemporary romance, is now available for a special pre-order price of $.99! I adored living on the fictional island of Parpadeo Island while I wrote the book, and I fell in love with the independent, introverted painter and the casual, adventurous business man. I hope you enjoy their story too. 🙂
Ivy Van Noten is a reclusive impressionist painter living in the greenhouse of an aging estate, Villa Blue, on an island off the coast of California. Two things matter most to Ivy—living her dreams as an artist and living at Villa Blue. She paints everyday from her perch high above the harbor, believes in hard work not muses, and is happy with everything exactly as it is. Except for one little detail: she’s got a serious case of artist’s block.
Comfortable wherever he is in the world, adventurous businessman Aiden James heads to Villa Blue under the prospect of acquiring the estate made popular during the Golden Era of Hollywood. But what he finds is an artist who captivates him in ways that wander well past the casual flings he’s accustomed to.
With an upcoming show that will either mean Ivy can continue living her dreams or dip into full-on failure, she’s fiercely focused on finding her way. And with Aiden beside her, holding her hand through adventures she’d never dream of doing on her own, the colors of her world begin to brighten, the snarling source of the block begins to loosen, and her heart discovers what it truly means to be in love.