Monday, January 28, 2008

Mercury Retrograde: Don't Buy into the Superstition

OK, so Mercury's officially retrograde, as is its custom three times a year. As of 1:31 pm Mountain Time, as observed from planet Earth, the planet Mercury began appearing to move backwards. This optical illusion has to do with the combined movement of Earth and Mercury around the sun. What's more, it's an optical illusion that purportedly enfeebles our already somewhat sorry attempts at communication. The check may be in the mail, but you can bet on its being delivered to the wrong mailbox. Don't count on your email messages making it to the correct destination either. They'll be taking the scenic route through cyberspace, bumping up against firewalls that materialized out of nowhere. It's not the time to start a new job or buy a computer or sign a contract or try a new recipe or, God forbid, file your taxes. And, shudder, don't get married. Don't even think about getting pregnant either. A child conceived under a retrograde Mercury is bound to be born breech. It's really not the best time to have your septic tank pumped, let alone have your boobs enlarged.

Me, I don't buy into this nonsense. I do believe we're all connected by invisible threads to just about everything else in the Universe. They say a moth beating its wings off the coast of Madagascar can affect the weather in Des Moines. There's this invisible thread of event loops connecting them. Many of us have experienced little premonitions that proved to be true. That's the invisible thread again. Or maybe we've walked by the same restaurant day after day after day, then one morning, we feel the irresistible urge to go inside only to find our long-lost best friend from elementary school sitting at the counter drinking a cup of coffee. It was the invisible thread that pulled us in there.

So, as to my being connected to Mercury in some subtle way, I'll buy it. Imagine please a 48 million-mile-long thread looped around one of my fingers. The other end of the thread is attached to a little hitching post on the planet Mercury. Now, if Mercury starts to move in the opposite direction, you can bet my finger is going to feel it, however subtly. I might have an irresistible urge to begin typing backwards. Of course. Were there anything to this Mercury retrograde superstition, I would already be typing backwards. Clearly, this doesn't happen. Why? Because Mercury isn't really moving backwards. That's just an illusion. Mercury doesn't even have a REVERSE option on his transmission. Why, I doubt that Mercury even drives a car.

Mercury hasn't suddenly panicked, put the engine in reverse, and floored the gas pedal, careening into UPS trucks and cell towers and mailboxes and wedding chapels. It didn't happen. That was just an illusion.

As was the odd occurrence of all four email accounts on the gallery computer locking me out a while ago. That too was an illusion. As was the Comcast server going down. A fairy tale, nothing more. As was the mailman delivering the mail for 6 Fortuna Place to 6 Lucero. Didn't really happen. And Blogger says they have a "scheduled outage" at 4 pm PST. So much smoke and mirrors.

Most telling of all--I jsut keep tpying nomrally, thnak yuo. Wree Mrecruy relaly gonig sdrawkcab, I konw ym tpying wolud eb affceted. Teh srting connetcing ym figner to Mercruy wolud eb plyaing trikcs. Nto hapepning. Neevr.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Be Careful What You Ask For, You Just Might Get It

My Leave It to Beaver Medicine post stimulated a lively discussion about animal totems. So many of you chimed in to reveal your personal animal helpers. Others went looking for theirs. In that post I playfully made the comment "I'll take a lion!" knowing full well that you don't order up an animal totem like a Veggie Deluxe deep-dish pizza.

Even so...a couple of nights later I had another dream. Have you ever dreamed you were lying in bed sleeping? Disorienting, huh? OK, so I dreamed I was lying in bed half-awake, half-sleeping, when a small whitish animal emerged from the headboard and kind of walked lightly over my body. Well, not kind of. It did walk right over my body, but its footfalls were barely discernible.

I found myself standing in another room, one which I don't know in waking life. I was speaking with my children and my mother: "You know there's some kind of small animal in the house. It's white. I don't think it's dangerous, but let's be on the lookout." As if on cue, there was the small white animal walking through the door. It was headed towards us.

As the animal approached us, it grew. It morphed from poodle size to sheep size. For a few seconds it resembled a sheep. But it kept growing. And growing. And it was changing color. The sheep morphed into a really, really long lioness. The Super Stretch of Lionesses in fact. She was extra-long and lean and of this perfectly beautiful tawny hue.

I casually said, "Well, maybe this animal is a little dangerous after all," and the four of us--me, the kids, and my mom---were laughing despite ourselves. Our shoulders were shaking and we were trying to stifle our laughter. We stepped back into a closet with white sliding doors. But did we close the doors? Oh no, we just stood in the opening, plainly visible to the Super Stretch of Lionesses. And we kept laughing under our breaths. Then I of course woke up.

When I woke up, I didn't feel shaken in the least. I felt as though I'd been quite fortunate to get a fleeting glimpse of such a gorgeous creature as my Super Stretch Dream Lioness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Time Traveling with Oakley

Twenty minutes after midnight on January 15, 1989, Oakley C. Merideth took a look around the green-tiled labor room at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, thought, "Hey, this place has possibilities!" and made his debut on Planet Earth. Without any help from the obstetrics staff mind you.

Oh, his father called out to the nurses' station--"Could we have a doctor in here???" But the stunned professionals were still wriggling into their throwaway gloves when Oakley wriggled his way into this world.

You see, Oakley and his mother--that would be me--knew something the equipment didn't know. The fetal monitor suggested Oakley was due in roughly two hours, but Oakley's inner clock, and mine--somehow, we'd managed to synchronize--said he would arrive in roughly two minutes. Oakley began this particular leg of his journey on his own schedule.

And he's been traveling that way since. When did he first turn his head, roll over, crawl, say cookie, walk to his father, hug his sister? When he was good and ready. I simply do not remember exact times, and I never recorded these developmental milestones in a baby book.

Other things I remember well. Like the evening we were eating at La Victoria on Alabama Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Someone walked over to the juke box and started playing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." You remember it (if you're old enough). The one that starts with all the heavy dance beats. Oakley began dancing from the waist up in his high chair. His head and shoulders moved first one way, then the next. First towards the salsa. Now towards the chips. Then they'd go stiff for a moment. Then they'd swoop again. To the right. To the left. In perfect rhythm. You'd have thought he'd been born in a disco under strobe lights. The waitress's eyes grew huge. They met mine. It was spooky, but in a good way.

Oakley has always been a little spooky, but in a good way. In the way that
a good question is a little spooky. In the second grade he refused to practice his spelling words until someone offered a proper explanation of: Who made up words in the first place? I'm still scratching my head over that one.

At elementary school graduation, when each student went up to receive a diploma, a teacher would stand and say a few words about that particular kid, to try to capture that kid in a nutshell. What was said about Oakley: Takes abstract thought to the next level.

One crisp autumn morning when Oakley was in eighth grade, an officer with the New Mexico State Police called me to inform me that my son had defaced a large expanse of the El Dorado Elementary School with graffiti. "It was a gang, ma'am, and your son was the ringleader." I was stunned. I was shaking. I called Bennie. He and I flew to the school. There we witnessed the desecration firsthand. We learned that Oakley and a group of girls, who apparently found him kind of cute, had indeed scrawled anarchy symbols on the wall. And drawings of turtles and hearts and snippets of poetry. Each morning they caught a bus at El Dorado School, a bus which then took them to the middle school ten miles away. This particular morning the bus never came. They were bored, and they'd discovered AN AUTUMN LEAF makes a handy drawing instrument.

To this day when the New Mexico State Police call and ask me to buy tickets to their fundraiser dance whose purpose is "to keep our kids from a life of crime," I politely refuse.

In middle school Oakley had another run-in with the long arm of authority. He is purportedly the only student in the history of Capshaw Middle School to have spent a day in In School Suspension reading Jung's Man and His Symbols.

Yes, even in middle school Oakley was a visionary. And his companions were visionaries.

When Oakley was a sophomore, I received another phone call. It was from the creative writing teacher at Santa Fe High. "Just wanted you to know that your son won first prize in the New Mexico CultureNet poetry WebSlam. He takes this kind of thing so casually, I practically had to hold a gun to his head to get him to enter it, so he may not tell you."

Yes, at the age of 14, Oakley had, with hardly any effort at all, nailed first prize in a competition of kids from all over the state. Since then he has published his poetry and won scholarships to two writing conferences. He has read his poetry at The College of Santa Fe, alongside two established adult poets. He has been the warmup act to a band called The Sex Boys (don't ask) as well as one of the warmups to the torching of Old Man Gloom at Santa Fe Fiesta.

The poem that clinched his first poetry victory began "Hey little children, little freaks, little souls..." One of the judges wrote that when she read that line, she was captured.

That's the way I've felt since January 15, 1989.

I'm captured.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Leave It to Beaver Medicine

Some of you may be familiar with power animals. In case you're not, I'll quote from Wikipedia:

Power animal is a broadly animistic and shamanic concept that has entered the English language from Anthropology, Ethnography and Sociology. As a tutelary entity or spirit, the ancient Anglo-Celtic Tradition also contained a comparable understanding, refer Fæcce. In the shamanic worldview, everything is alive and carries with it an inherent virtue, power and wisdom. Or stated differently, our power animal(s) represent our strengths, our qualities of character, our power.
Power animals are endemic to shamanic practice. They are the helping or ministering spirit or familiar which add to the power of an individual and are essential for success in any venture undertaken.

"... the helping or ministering spirit or familiar which add to the power of an individual and are essential for success in any venture undertaken."

Wow! Where do I sign to get one of those? I'll take a lion!

I learned a while back I've had a power animal all along. We all do. Mine's not a big strong bear or a fearless lion or a wise old owl that can rotate its head and see all, know all. It's not a wily coyote or a soaring eagle with laser-like vision.

No, my power animal is the beaver. A rodent represents my strength, my quality of character, my power.

Did the beaver come to me in a vision? Well, in a once-removed manner. What happened is I'd been to a workshop led by a Native American friend of mine. In the workshop we were supposed to enter a light trance and go back in time and talk to our illness or stress or problem. Have disease, will travel. Somehow I wound up in my first San Francisco apartment, but my illness didn't seem to be around. Then my friend said, "Well, maybe you'll dream something tonight."

Did I dream something? Not that I could recall the next morning. I did recall, however, waking up in the middle of the night. A rare occurrence. I am a very deep sleeper. I sleep through dogs barking--right there in the bedroom. I sleep through sirens and smoke alarms. Once I almost slept through a hotel fire. But I digress. I woke up in the middle of the night. And my husband was talking to me. He was speaking in that sweet, kind of private tone he reserves for me in tender moments. What he said was, "You are a beaver."

Unbridled sex talk, I couldn't help thinking.

But he continued. "You can build your house on the river and live right on the river." Then he was quiet. And I fell back to sleep.

Next morning over French roast I said, "Wow, that was something. You really think I can build my house and live on the river? Like a beaver?"


"Last night you said, 'You are a beaver. You can build your house on the river and live right on the river.' "

"I did not!"

"Yes, you did. You said I'm a beaver."

"You were dreaming, baby."

"No, I wasn't dreaming. Maybe you were. You were sleeptalking."

Then a few nights after that I woke up again. This time he was saying, "You're about to turn into a beaver and fly off on your magic carpet."

Again, I fell asleep immediately.

Still later, Bennie and I were taking a walk in the early morning. "I had this really weird dream," he said.


"You and I were in that old VW Golf."

"So it was more than 10 years ago. Right?"

"No, it was the present, but for some reason we were in the Golf. You and I were in the backseat. The kids were in the front. Flannery was driving. The car was stopped, and these beavers kept trying to get in the car. The kids and I had the windows down. We were fending them off."

"Why? Were they angry beavers? Were they armed with machetes? Were they baring their teeth?"

"Beavers always bare their teeth."


"But no, they didn't seem dangerous. We just didn't want those beavers in the car."

He had a point at that. Who would want beavers gnawing at their instrument panel?

I asked, "So what was I doing all this time?"

"You just sat there passively. You had this little smile even. It's a wonder you didn't fling your door open and start buckling one into the extra seatbelt."

This was getting weird. I googled "power animals" and "totem animals" and "animal medicine" and "beaver medicine." I learned that the beaver is in fact a noble creature to have on your side, buckled right into the seatbelt, ready to travel. Beavers have transformational powers and in the way that really counts. They work very hard. They build. And when thoughtless vandals destroy what they've built, they build it again. Probably most importantly, they work as a team. So doesn't it all fit now? The beaver used my longtime, loyal, unwitting husband as the instrument of communication.

Beaver medicine entered my life at a time when I was feeling rather frustrated. I'd just come off an illness lasting several years. I was spent. The beaver came to me and said, "You've suffered. You've been torn down. Build your house. Live on the river. Fly off on your magic carpet. Then come back to earth and make art about your journey. Your creations will sometimes be torn down. Your dreams will suffer. You will suffer. That's life. Build again. Right on the river. Don't hide in the trees for fear of having your creation destroyed, for fear of its not being solid enough. Use those trees to build. And NEVER forget the rest of the team. They're building right beside you."

I completed "Relics Adrift in Red" when all of this beaver stuff was going on. I didn't set out to paint a beaver, but for the life of me, the buyer of that painting said, "You know--I see a beaver in there--it's over to the left." Now I see it too.

Thank you for being there, Beaver.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Recipes for Movers, Shakers, and Me

OK, so Lee gave me the heads-up on another illuminating online personality quiz. She found it at JS's place. The rest of the San Antonio contingent, in their feverish, lemming-like, Episcopalian manner, had rushed to take it too.

I'm a good sport. These things mean so much to Lee, after all. How can I let her down? It's also a welcome diversion from filling in 1099s. I took it. All I had to do was plug my name into a field, hit the submit button, and there I had my personality in a nutshell. I assumed it was some kind of dumbed-down numerology thing. The Recipe for San Merideth:

The Recipe For San Merideth

3 parts Mischief
2 parts Rebellion
1 part Charisma

Splash of Recklessness

Limit yourself to one serving. This cocktail is strong!

Truth be told, I was a little let down by this particular Recipe for San Merideth. So I simply put the browser in reverse, headed backwards to the quiz page, and hit the submit button again. I didn't even retype my name. Voila! A New, Improved Recipe for San Merideth:

The Recipe For San Merideth

3 parts Ingenuity
2 parts Genius
1 part Craftiness

Splash of Intensity

Finish off with whipped cream

That's more like it. Uncannily accurate in fact. And with whipped cream on the top. I thought, hey, what about other movers and shakers?

So I took the test for Mother Teresa. Here's the Recipe for Mother Teresa:

The Recipe For Mother Teresa

3 parts Fascination
2 parts Attractiveness
1 part Rebellion

Splash of Elegance

Sip slowly on the beach

Wow, she is in a better place now.

Darth Vader??

The Recipe For Darth Vader

3 parts Style
2 parts Glamour
1 part Kindness

Splash of Prosperity

Finish off with a squeeze of lime juice


Dr. Phil???

The Recipe For Dr. Phil

3 parts Inspiration
2 parts Panache
1 part Ambition

Splash of Giddiness

Finish off with an olive

Wow, that's Dr. Phil to a "T." Especially the Splash of Giddiness. I'm dumbfounded. Go ahead. Take the test. If you're not pleased with the results, keep taking it. Take it for anyone you can think of. Dick Cheney, Hamlet, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry Potter, Mr. Clean. It's fast, it's painless, it's free, it doesn't go on your permanent record, and you might come up with something you can actually swallow.

What's the recipe for your personality?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

22 years ago today...

...a 20-something, pushing-30 couple stood in front of a magistrate judge in San Francisco's City Hall. They were there to pledge their loyalty to one another "until death us do part."

They had opened a gallery less than three months ago. The start-up costs had sucked their savings dry and so they had no money for wedding bands. In one month, they would discover they were pregnant with no maternity benefits. He would take a job selling Volkswagens. She would work the gallery with the most debilitating morning sickness in the history of the world. One day soon, overcome by nausea and fatigue, she would retreat to the gallery's back room to lie on the sofa. Hearing footsteps in the gallery, she would rush back in, only to discover the phone had been stolen. She would discover she had high blood pressure, that her pregnancy was considered "complicated" and so she would have to close the gallery three times a week, squeeze her colossal girth behind the wheel of their Ford Courier, and negotiate the hills between Convergence Gallery and UC Med Center. The doctor would inevitably be late for their appointments. When he would appear, his would be the same stale joke: "No wonder you have high blood pressure--you closed your store to come see me, you're thinking about the sale you're missing out on, and here I am, always running late." San would feel like she was trapped in a never-ending cycle of financial stress, nausea, malaise, and abject terror.

That day 22 years ago, had San seen what lay in her immediate future, there's a very good chance she would have run to the nearest taxi, grabbed a ride to the airport, and flown to any destination that might be readily available. Some place safe like Poughkeepsie. Or Antarctica. Or Saturn.

San, however, was not clairvoyant. Business was picking up a bit. She, with the untested optimism of the very young, assumed the real difficulties were a thing of the past. So she married Bennie. Anyone with any "common sense" would have told this young couple they were behaving in a perfectly irrational manner, that they were headed towards disaster. But no one with common sense was around that day, so they headed, blindfolded, right into the disaster of their life together.

Things turned out remarkably well. Flannery was born 10 months later. The labor went so swiftly and uneventfully, San didn't even make it to the delivery room. The doctor who'd declared her pregnancy "complicated" now declared San a woman who was "born to breed." Apparently, this was the case. Oakley arrived 26 months later. He actually arrived before the doctor arrived. Bennie had a vasectomy. Then he had another one, since the first one didn't take. Seems that San wasn't the only one in this couple who was "born to breed."

Bennie and San had not planned on being parents, and they were simply amazed to discover they LOVED being parents. Flannery and Oakley were these huge gifts from out of the blue--unasked for, unanticipated, and absolutely awe-inspiring.

The arrival of my children taught me the biggest lesson that my life has ever offered up: You don't always know what you want. Life, or The Universe, or God--whatever term you use for whatever's beyond your power--often has much bigger things in mind for your life. Things that are much more profoundly satisfying than any goals you might have imagined in your very limited perspective. 22 years ago, I never would have been able to conjure such incredible young adults as the two I just shared Christmas with.

I would never have fathomed that, 22 years later, I would be living in the stunning high desert landscape of New Mexico in a cozy little home looking out on the mountains, that I would actually be making paintings myself and sending them to wonderful homes around the country.

Life is an unfolding surprise, a feast.

And I am filled with gratitude that I am sharing it with the love of my life.

Happy Anniversary, love!