Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dead Souls in Chatsworth, California

Today is the day after the train collision just around the bend on a single track in Chatsworth, California. Desi and Lucy Arnez lived there with their children. John Wayne made movies out there at the Paramount ranch. I think it was him. Five decades years ago it was a place to get away from the city. It has long since become a suburb.

Now it is a place of sadness, anguish, and 18 dead souls and counting. 

Today, my friend from Northridge, next door to Chatsworth is coming over to pick up a coffee table that she loaned to my daughter. Tomorrow, the coffee table is going to Sacramento with my friend's daughter who is about 10 minutes pregnant, suffering morning sickness and exhaustion and excitement all at the same time. Her daughter and my daughter were married about two weeks apart last summer. All so carefully planned. 

Not so for the people in those train cars. The freight car probably had a couple people in it. Those happy-sad, mad-glad, short-fat, tall-thin, old-young people going home on the metrolink, tired from a day's work, excited or disappointed from a day at school where they had accomplished something worthwhile--or not--and those who just happened to be on that train going in the direction of Moorpark because it was their day for one of life's rite-of-passage, they all had souls.

Hopefully, they all had families. Families who will grieve for them, or with them, and what happened to them. For those, even that one single person, who did not have anyone, I grieve. It doesn't matter whether they are at the big banquet at the right hand of God, or their soul has been set free, or they are simply gone from this earth. 

Celebrating a life well-lived is a way to let go, float them away on a pyre, sprinkle them on a hillside, or bury them in a casket. But loss is real. A home sits empty, a chair unused, a bed half empty, an apple uneaten. That is real and someone must attend to it.

I shall mourn for the life lost in the shuffle. I shall pray for all the rest, that they may rest in peace or someone's loving care. This is pain and hurt and loss. It best not be buried beneath anger.

May no one use these dead souls as property in the name of a self-righteous get rich scheme.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Loretta who takes a bath instead of medicine

September in Van Nuys can be the hottest month of the year. Loretta had just taken a bath, and it was a question of whether to put on her nightgown or not. She'd taken a bath after dinner for more than 65  years, ever since she left home for nurses training. Lots of women her age took medicine, all she needed was a bath. 

When the phone rang, she held the towel around herself with one hand and threw open the window with the other, then promptly tripped and smacked her backside on the floor. By the time Loretta hobbled into the bedroom and fumbled for the phone, she snapped. "What do you want?" 

She wanted to cry, instead she leaned against the edge of the bed, closed her eyes and listened to her caller, who wanted something.

"Yes. I can walk the dog over there, and check on her," Loretta said, evenly, without an ounce of emotion, but with a long pause before she continued. "She's your mother, wouldn't she rather see you, especially since you haven't been there recently." It was not a question.

The woman on the other end of the line had been married to Loretta's son 25 years ago. That was three husbands, 2 rehabs, half a dozen different jobs and one lazy-ass life time ago. Sure enough, some man's voice in the background made it clear why she was too busy. 

Loretta took a Valium, waited 15 minutes, then pulled on shorts and a shirt and set off with the dog down the sidewalk. A pink and grey and yellow streaked sunset took her back to the trip she and her sister had taken to Maui, back in 1985, maybe. That drive along the road to Hana, all those waterfalls in the rain forest had been so beautiful. They'd stopped at a roadside fish shack and paid a dollar for two steaming wrapped fish things.

"Fresh, just caught," a little smiling man had told them. "I caught, myself," he added. "Take your pictures?" 

They should have gone again. It wouldn't have been the same. Loretta had already retired. Her sister had her own life, a new man friend even. Loretta had figured it all out, long ago. You have to get on with life. Take care of business. Don't let the foolishness get in the way. For goodness sakes, everyone just wants to have a good time, all the time. It just gets ridiculous. There's work to do. 

Loretta picked up her stride. The twinge in her back barely perceptible. The dog wagged his tail as fast as his little legs moved.  Loretta chuckled and pushed her bangs to the side of her face. 

"You're fit to be tied," her little sister would have said with a laugh. "Just look how beautiful the sky is. Why are you so upset?"

Loretta rang the doorbell at the old house on the next corner. She rang it three times. The old woman was half deaf. Loretta peeked in the window but didn't see anyone. What a waste of my time, she thought. The poor old thing is probably taking her bath. Loretta went around back, and saw the screen door hanging open. 

"Hello," Loretta called out. "Anybody home? Hello. Hello."

She went inside. The kitchen smelled of rotten fruit and flies buzzed the countertops and cabinets. The dog whined and pulled her forward. There was the poor old soul. On the sofa. Stretched out. Feet up. Head on a cushion. Mouth open. 

"Wake up, woman," Loretta called to her. "Time to get up. You can sleep in bed." 

It came to Loretta slowly. The old woman was dying. Her breath was shallow, her skin was dull and flat. Loretta lifted a stack of magazines off of a chair and sat down. Her back hurt. Her head ached. She held the old woman's hand and patted her scroungy head. By nightfall, the old woman was gone. Loretta switched on the table lamp and called for a coroner.

But she didn't call the daughter. She knew she'd hear about it later. But for now, there was work to do. A pyrex bowl of hot water and dish detergent served well with a toothbrush to clean the old dead woman's fingernails. No one needed to see her so unclean.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yoga: 9 - 10:30 AM on Thurday

COMPLACENCY.  I've worn it like a mink coat on a summer day for awhile now, feeling smug that I had this great coat but complaining how it was miserable. The word's been around since the mid 17th century, so it would seem a lot of people have been stuck in the complacency rut. 

The word itself came to me in yoga class after a conversation about using a mental eraser in order to start over. Yes, my mind was wondering, but that's what complacency will do. There was so much mental goo to erase. Where to start?  

Meantime, I was flowing through sun salutations, I especially like upward facing dog. It takes strength, a flexible back, and an open heart which means the shoulders should move easily onto the back. Thing is, from here the body flows into downward facing dog. That means the toes, see them in the picture, the nails clicking on the mat--ruins a pedicure--must roll over backwards.
I rolled one foot's worth of toes over, then the other, Gosh darn, I was good at this. Done it hundreds of times. I'm just going with the flow. The instructor plopped down on the bamboo floor in front of my plush mat and rolled all ten toes over at the same time.

Okay, I'll give that a try. Whoa. Lost my flow when I gave it a go. There was no extra foot to take the weight of my body. The discomfort, okay it was pain, gave me the mental jolt that I'd been looking for. When I went for the second dual rollover, it was necessary to go back to the one foot, other foot method.

Mental eraser at work. I was on a new journey. Where would it take me?

This isn't me in the picture, below, but it could be.  Looks like me from a distance. For the first time, I balanced myself on my arms and shoulders. I didn't get up so high. I like to think my butt is smaller. Maybe it isn't. I know it isn't a flattering posture. But, hey, you try it.

It's called Crane Pose. It's vital to breath while perched in this position. Thought I'd share just in case you're in a rut. Complacency. Since the 17th century.