Monthly Archives: February 2010

just words

grey sky, grey doves, on grey tree limbs……

some shade of amethyst or grape or mulberry opens on redbud branches…..

ferns bursting fronds…..

Houston’s kind winter sun…..

stretch like a cat slow and skillfully innate…….

white crane standing in the wetlands, white lily in the ditch, white full moon, perfect in the sky….

tulip trees are scouts for spring here…..

siren in the garden is calling again……



How I love the movement that has come in my life. As I glide into old age, dance in various guises comforts me. For exercise I now do a Nia class, but under that, feeding that, is something called dance meditation. A sweetness has come from moving this body. Dance meditation makes me go within. The moving shakes me up on many levels. Here I am, caught in the mental box writing requires, hours sometimes at the computer, and if I make time to move, my world readjusts, moves into now, a physical now. I become more than a forehead. I become present.

I also practice Osho’s active meditations. Why meditate at all? It beats taking Prozac, and I find myself deepening and softening. I can’t have my heedless, headstrong, unthinking youth back. Meditation makes that bearable, makes this part of my life interesting. In India, it used to be (may still be) accepted that the latter part of life was about spiritual journey. That  journey makes this stage of life sweet instead of bitter, fathomless instead of regretted.

lillian and lily

And so the exercise was: name the women you admired when you were young….and none came to mind. There were women I loved. There were women I liked. There were women I worshipped from afar like movie stars, but admire has some special quality to it, some backbone of clear and hard esteem that made me search my memory.  And then I remembered Lillian Hellman, the playwright and later memorist, whom I met at 17 through her book, Pentimento. Why her? Maybe because she was the first woman presented in my life who didn’t fall into the pattern, wife, mother, loyal second. Lillian married, divorced, had a dashing, alcoholic affair with Dashiell Hammet and wrote during all of it. She was restless and flawed and lived a big life with big mistakes.

And then I thought of Lily Jones, my Dad’s great aunt. Aunt Lily had the only pretty house of my childhood, and she didn’t sleep with Uncle Albert. She was the only woman of my acquaintance who didn’t sleep with her husband. Their headboards were separated by the windows of her bedroom. He slept on a converted back porch, his room littered with stale cigar smoke and detective magazines. She raised flowers–her yard was full of them–and was hugely clever with her needle. I have some of her many quilts and dollies and handmade pillow cases. She dipped snuff and drove her 1920s car until the 1950s.

Now I have lived a most ordinary life–always attempting to fit the pattern and not always doing it well. I’m not quite clear what it is I admire, but I think it’s a streak of independence, a not fitting in, in one case, on a grand scale, and in the other, quietly enough to get by in small town.

So if admiration has a clear and hard backbone of esteem, who are the women you admire?


Sometimes I have unusually rich days. Sunday was one of them. Slept late. Someone else made breakfast. Cold, cold outside. Gray. Stayed in my pajamas and read the NY Times almost cover to cover. Thought on and off about the new love in my life, my 6-week-old grandson. Talked on the phone with various people I love, and whom I haven’t been seeing (I’m hunkered down finishing revisions on a 4th novel). Ate a secret stash of chocolate-covered graham crackers, while I  read the Times. The intelligence and scope of its writing give me instant civics lessons, ideas to chew on, opinions to mull. Made a fire. Love watching the flames kindle, tending them so they’ll grow. Went to a women’s ceremony celebrating St. Brigid. We were asked to think of the women or woman who inspired us. Then we said the names after a time of thoughtful silence, offering them up to the gods that be in Houston’s stark and beautiful Friends Meeting House, the names rising like doves. Then to the post office to mail a late bill. One ought to go to the post office late. Interesting folk show up. An East Indian couple were working together to mail a package on the automatic postal machine, talking softly in their language. Then an elderly couple showed up and puttered with their mail, talking about their life and the state of the union. Then an ancient bent-over gentleman in a big Stetson and cane tottered over to the postal machine. I thought he was impatient that the couple took so long. He announced to the post office at large the way old people will that he wanted to pay for his p. o. box and he wasn’t sure he could do that, and in perfect English, the man of the East Indian couple worked the machine and found the button that would let him do what he needed. In a courtly, Texan way, he said, thank you so very much. I’m glad you were here. I thought about Houston and its immense diversity, and how I was witnessing that, and how folks underestimate our city, only the fourth largest and too hot but wonderful in so many ways.

Question: Who are the women who inspired you? My answer: Lillian Hellman and Lily Jones. Details next blog.