Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Thursday, July 25, 2013
"Did you call 911?"
"Got a phone?"
"No. Up at the abbey. Come with me. I'll show you the way." Brother Joseph set down his flute, picked up his crutches, climbed to his feet, hobbled slowly up the trail.
"Can't you go any faster?" cried the boy.
"You go on ahead. It's just a hundred yards up this trail. Take the right hand fork. Big wooden building."
The boy said nothing, just dashed away, quickly disappearing from sight. Brother Joseph took a few more steps, then stopped. He'll b
"Hi ho, Brother Joseph," he called. "A beautiful fine day it is to be carrying a sack full of bills to the abbey. Here is your Smithsonian Magazine."
"Oh, look at this," said Brother Joseph, taking the magazine. "What is this strange bird on the cover? It's a hoatzin, whatever that is." He opened the magazine, searching for the cover article. His eyes fell on a photograph of a gigantic robot arm, so delicate, said the caption, that it could juggle three eggs without breaking them. Quickly he closed the magazine. "Please, my friend, take this up to the abbey. I'll look at it later."
"Busy?" asked the postman.
"Busy trying to quiet my busy mind. Why, just now ... never mind. I'll tell you later."
"I see how it is with you, my friend. I'll be on my way."
After the postman left, Brother Joseph tried to settle down, but he kept thinking about the boy. What was happening up at the abbey? What about the boy's parents? An armed psychopath less than a mile away. Why hadn't he gone to a neighbor for help? Probably one of those lone houses at the edge of the woods. The woods would be safest. Good instinct to run for cover in the woods. A robot juggling eggs. What for? Who would want to?
He couldn't silence the voices in his head. Then he realized that by trying to calm himself enough to play his flute he was doing it backward. The trick, he knew from long experience, was just to play the flute until the babbling voices stopped. He raised the flute to his lips and blew a note. A long wavering note that came from his busy mind, then a quick string of notes, still connected to his thoughts. As he played he again became aware of the brook singing among the stones and he answered the watery song with his own song, the notes now coming from deep within him, flowing harmoniously with the stream. He was focused now. The world narrowed to the water music mingling with the fluty wind music, no room for thoughts, no other being but here now.
Once more silence in the woods, except for the song of a bamboo flute, a running brook, a distant gunshot.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
A Wedding Gift to Remember
Wind gusted off the ocean, sandpapering the weathered sides of the beach house and rattling the wood shutters. Outside, a chair blew over with a bang. November's storms had arrived. Summer on the cape was delightful, but fall weather was iffy.
Ellie took a sip of non-alcoholic wine, grimaced, and turned on a lamp by the couch. Her parents had been wonderful about the pregnancy. They were always just a telephone call and a hug away.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Candy is sweet. Lovingly he stripped the wrapper from the candy and let it waft to the floor. The candy lay lightly in his hand. He let the sweet candy caress his tongue and closed his eyes until it was fully dissolved; it was at this point that the bullet entered his brain.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Gone the bustling amusement park at Ocean Beach, gone Skateland and Playland, gone into burnt brick and ruined concrete walls are the once sprawling Sutro Baths, gone the Chateau-like Cliff House which exists only in old pictures and postcards.
But the slow-sloping Beach at the edge of the infinite ocean is there in all its natural stolid solidity and aloneness: five miles of it from Lands End, where tourists gather for views of the Golden Gate and Marin Headlands, south to the Fort Funston cliffs where moth-like hang gliders soar 500 feet over the wind-swept land, riding the ridge-lift, held aloft by the up-drafts. Tiny Bank Swallows nest in the cliffs there – their only known coastal nesting site. Ocean Beach, paralleled by the Great Highway, is two hundred yards wide all the way, its flatness modulated by occasional low sand dunes.
It’s wind, wind, wind at Ocean Beach: strong wind, whooshing wind, whipping wind, forever wind, cold, steady, unrelenting wind. Wind carves waves, froths the breakers, and forms white-caps in the distance. Wind drives the sea into the shore, and the constant sounds of wind and waves together seemingly radiate from far beyond the horizon of incoming swells; the crash, roar, dip and hush; the pulse, shape and duration of multiple sea and wind sounds; the rush, constant pounding and plangent resonance of ocean and air; the weight and power of the ocean tamed only in small measure by the Beach. And shrill calls of snowy plovers, gulls, geese, ravens, pelicans, cormorants.
The slippery visual wash of waves; the sight of their rhythmic rise, thrust, collapse and retreat; their differing motions; their curves, filigrees and lacey shapes; the ever changing dots, specks and lines, jagged and smooth, on the moody ever-changing sea surface; inlay of scintillating light; tankers diminished by distance to toy boats; the grainy sand underfoot and in the hand; the briny taste and smell; salt on the lips. Do onlookers not see inward and stare into the sea-tides of their souls?
All San Francisco comes here. Waders like the gentle slope of the Beach and children play in the foamy spoor and backflow of the water; flyers of kites unloose their birds and dragons to the wind; surf-casters cast out; sand sculptors compete in the annual contest. Surfers love the heavy swells and miles of beach break: they mount the liquid planes below and above the rising waves and read the changes and shapes of the swells, then glide down cutting back and forth along the long spiral roll of falling wave crests. Kite-surfers, lift-pulled by the wind, slide and glide colorfully through the glassy shallows. Warming bonfires and barbeques glow on the beach day and night while runners and bikers flow on the sidewalks of the Great Highway.
Yet swimmers beware! Lives have been lost from the achingly cold water, strong rip tides, currents and undertows, and fierce waves. Wind driven waves have grounded many ships and pounded them to pieces on Seal Rocks and against the jagged cliffs at either end of the Beach. Once in a while, at low tide, the ghostly hull of the King Phillip, an old clipper ship wrecked in 1878, surfaces eerily through the sand at windswept Ocean Beach.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
How to be Calm