First steps

A lopsided tree on a trail in Patrick's Point Park in winter where I am taking first steps running

At the trailhead
I vacillate and waver,
shake away the urge to start, as if it were a pest aiming at my face,
turn my attention to a thought-that-cannot-wait-a-moment-longer,
though it has lain forgotten for days.

Drizzle dots my glasses sliding down a cold nose
Random aches nag
The bench on the bluff lures me to stay, sit
and see platinum sky melt into gunmetal ocean.

But I can’t:
A breath of wind and the lopsided dead tree ahead will slam down onto the trail
and cut off passage.
Time is tight
to press on and reach past the tree.
Too late is too close.

Yet I dither,
find excuses
detail pressing commitments I never made
impede the progress burning urgent
within.

Until
I wrest the first step.
Soon legs and feet fall into a trotting rhythm,
soles spring on rain-loosened loam.
Browning ferns crowd along the path—
dying, so spring can bring new growth.
Bright green fiddleheads will uncurl and unfurl.

The hesitant first step is effaced in the glow of the endorphins’ high
tide flowing in.

At the top of the page
I dither and doodle,
shake away the urge to write, as if it were a pest aiming at my face,
turn my attention to a task-that-cannot-wait-a-moment-longer,
though it has lain undone for days.

I brew a fresh cup of black tea
Inhale the sweet steam,
sip.
I quarter and core a Fuji apple
Bite after bite I eat it, a drop of juice escaping from my lips
chased and captured by the tongue.
Time is tight
to press on and reach the bottom of the page.
A bite of bitter chocolate
melts in my mouth

Now

Right hand prods the fountain pen
Nib whispers
Blue ink seeds the page
of the notebook the same hand sewed with precise stitches.

When I stop I am tired
The tracker shows over 3 miles run
The notebook 3 pages filled
bleeding onto a fourth.

Not every day sets a personal running record
Not every day the words will survive the editing shears
But today’s trotting is training for tomorrow’s run
Today’s still sentences are training for the full moon
setting on the ocean
sparking off the page.


© 2015-2017 Simona Carini

The Nothing

Agate's Beach on a foggy afternoon (the Nothing comes ashore)

Fog came ashore and erased the landscape.
The Pacific Ocean faded to a band of foam where waves still managed to reach the slate gray sand.

Standing on the ridge overlooking Agates’ Beach, I saw the sheer bluff melt into light gray immateriality.
A couple on the beach walked straight into the fog’s embrace and disappeared.

I was alone in the world.
Would the erasing force reach my feet, my legs, my heart?

I knew why the fog happened.
I knew nothing would happen to me.
Not there, at least. Not then.

Yet, I was like a child dreaming of being in the fantasy novel she had just read, in which The Nothing advanced and erased the world.
I saw The Nothing. I felt it, as a cool blade of breeze drew the outline of my spine.

Would I wake up in a different universe to realize I had been dreaming the Earth, the ocean, my life?

I jogged away from the lookout, towards the park’s exit.
The fog gained ground behind me.


© 2015-2017 Simona Carini

Power lines

power lines across a post-storm sky

February 28, 2015

Our long drive southbound on California Highway 101 from Humboldt County to Santa Rosa got under way under a sky spring-cleaned by a two-day rainstorm. On Humboldt Bay’s mirrorlike water, ducks glided drawing fine wakes and egrets checked their snowy plumage. Millions of droplets caught in the needles of roadside redwoods made the tall trees glint. The first new leaves dotted branches of deciduous trees.

I took a break from soaking up the sparkling landscape to text my brother to be updated on the latest Lego drama: the evening before, my five-year-old nephew had crashed his prized police station while moving it and the catastrophe had plunged him into an abyss of desperation. The message popping up on my iPhone told me that an emergency rebuilding of the station had cleared the sky in the boy’s life. I smiled at the image of a twinkle slowly unfolding the creases on my nephew’s crying face. Superimposed on it, the older image of one of my brother’s theatrical tantrums when he was his son’s age appeared. I don’t know if and what he remembers, as we rarely talk about the first 20 years of our lives, when we inhabited the same apartment, but different emotional worlds.

After four hours of solid blue, thunderstorm clouds materialized in front of us, intermittently fractured by lightning, a rare occurrence in the Bay Area. We headed straight towards the churning gray chaos, while behind us, calm blue reigned unfazed. We stepped inside Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa where I read a selection of my writings.

Afterwards, Auriela McCarthy shared an excerpt from her book The Power of the Possible. She read how trying to change another person is “a hopeless and pointless task.” An energy field of resistance builds up “with each wishful thought and each hopeful feeling” and against it the person will bounce. The line of communication severed, there is no connection between the two sides, though their voices’ volume may reach a dangerous level of decibels.

Auriela’s words were a serendipitous commentary to the stories I had just read. In “Through the Green Glass,” my mother wanted me to be different. I wished the same of her. On that premise, we doomed ourselves to mutual isolation. On the other hand, in “Nasturtium Triumphant” I did not try to change the expansionism of the garden nasturtium that holds court around our house. Rather, I delighted in observing its blazing yellow and orange flowers, its shield-shaped leaves on which dew- and raindrops collect into glittering globes, and its indomitable spirit. And I explored with appreciation the plant’s culinary uses.

The reading event over, we turned the car around and headed north again. The sky was a fast-moving kaleidoscope of blue, white and many shades of gray. The thunderstorm’s threat never quite materialized, but the billows of clouds lingered on — marbled, as if black ink had been squirted into white paint and an expert hand was swirling a spatula in it. The warm light of sunset painted pink and purple brushstrokes in Monet-like frenzy.

My photographer’s eyes darted around framing the view from various angles, looking to capture the magical convergence of the gods of light, perspective and landscape elements.

“Stop here, please!” I pleaded with my husband.

I sprang out, iPhone at the ready and started framing this way and that feverishly, because each elapsing instant was bringing a subtle shift of light and clouds that meant the difference between a textured image and a flat one. After a 360 degree pirouette assessment, I stopped towards the south-east at a magnificent combination of sky, clouds and silhouette of hills and trees. But telephone cables and power lines cut across my sweeping field of view.

“Darn!” I raged, but then thought: “You can’t change them, so embrace them.” The black lines strung between poles speeding across at an angle became part of the image, no longer noise, but a line of visual melody.

“I love it!” I beamed as I got back into the car.

When we let go of wishing that the other person be different, a space of possibilities opens up. Death has shut down that space forever for my parents, but I can still explore it with my brother. I can make sure that the line of communication between us is also a line of connection.


Auriela McCarthy’s website
Redwood Writers’ Open Mic


© 2015-2017 Simona Carini

On the bluff, in the wind

Indian paintbrush blooming on the bluff (Mendocino Headlands) At the edge of the bluff, the gaze glides down towards the ocean shimmering deep blue under a bright summer sky. It stops at the tuft of Indian paintbrush blooming brilliant red half-way down, a small fire, burning heatless on the steep sandy slope.

The Indian paintbrush is not the only plant surviving in the harsh environment,
scorched by the mid-day sun that has burned off the nightly fog,
shaken by the wind that accompanies the fog daily mass migration to and from the coast,
splashed by the salt spray the ocean showers when it pounds the shore.

But among the gravity-defying bluff flora, the Indian paintbrush is the plant that most assertively heeds its urge to bloom, bursting into flames of flowers. It doesn’t wait for something to change its surroundings, doesn’t try to move elsewhere. It sings its colorful song today on this rocky stretch of California coast.

The place or the time not being right for the blooming burning inside me is an excuse easy to make. The Indian paintbrush turns that excuse into sand. Where my feet are now and when I breathe this breath are as right a place and time as there will ever be. I look at the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean marbled with streaks of white foam.

I breathe in the cool coastal air carrying the taste of salt and seaweeds. Like the Indian paintbrush, I cannot imagine a better place or a better time.


© 2015-2017 Simona Carini