Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Skipping Stones

What is it about rocks and sticks and boys?

Skipping stones along the top of the calm lake.
Big rocks.
“Flat rocks work best,” he said.
I was curious so I found a flat rock and threw it at a slant.
Plunk. It didn’t skip.

Instead, I passed the time gazing
at the surrounding pine trees, the lake, the sky.
I passed the time finger painting in the visible patch of sand and small stones.
I finger painted shapes and swirls and found joy in the moment. When I was done, I was going to take a photo and then decided not to. A few moments later, a small current caused the water to erase my sand painting. I smiled, knowing, it was best that way. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mah Jong

In my childhood, when I had the Commodore 64 computer that I’ve talked about before, one of the games I had installed was Mah Jong. I liked it for the images on the computer tiles, but I had no clue how to play and never learned.

Last week I visited a favorite store filled with trinkets of all sorts. I found a lovely black top with an embroidered section on the upper part, a sleeveless flowing ruffle around the upper arms. I did a final look to make sure I didn’t miss anything and that’s when I saw hanging from a display a small wine colored pouch—reminiscent of the material that white almonds are bundled in at weddings. I saw that there was a stack of something inside—four little squares. I flipped the information card over: Magnets in a Bag. But not just any magnets, Mah Jong Tile magnets. It was the cutest thing. I decided I wanted to bring them home with me and when I read more on the information card, it said, “When translated, Mah Jong means ‘the Game of the Sparrows’ – a title thought to have originated from the bird-like chattering noise created by shuffling the tiles together at the start of the game.” I don’t know if this is true, but it seems Wikipedia does mention that according to myth the game was developed by Confucius and that he was fond of birds and perhaps that’s how this game got its name. Each magnet has the Chinese calligraphy symbol for one of the four winds. Precious. I was happy to add these magnets to the refrigerator for our viewing pleasure.

Since bringing the Mah Jong magnets home, I looked on the iTunes App store through my iPod Touch to see what Mah Jong Apps they have. I found two that I downloaded, but they are not real Mah Jong games in the sense that the Apps that I downloaded have the characters and images that one may see on a real set of tiles, but play on the App is more of a solitaire game of matching. I watched a video of a group of four people playing Mah Jong and realized that the real game is more complicated.

From the second link below, it seems difficult for scholars to agree on the exact true origins of the game and naming.

For now, the imaginative and dream spirit in me is happy with knowing Mah Jong as “The Game of Sparrows.”

The photo I’ve included with this blog is of a coin purse that I also saw and brought home.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Mis palabras son
en las lineas y colores
de la mariposa.

(Rebb reading Mariposa in Spanish)

My words are
in the lines and colors
of the butterfly.


I was walking this morning and my mind was wandering and I was thinking of writing and Spanish and mariposa, the Spanish word for butterfly flew into my mind and then these few Spanish words formed and I pulled my little notebook out and wrote them down. They are simple but grasped how I felt in that moment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

La luna está mirando me/The moon is watching me

La luna está mirando me
en la día,
una canasta llena a mitad.
Yi el cielo se ve
tan grande hoy
en este camino donde
la luna se vacía luz de paz y amor.

(Rebb reading poem in Spanish. I couldn't figure out how to insert an MP3 file, so here it is if you'd like to listen.)

The moon is watching me
In the daytime,
a basket half-full.
And the sky looks
so large today on this road where
the moon empties
light of peace and love.


Sometimes my thoughts come to me in Spanish. It reinforces my limited vocabulary and at the same time, it makes me thankful for the words that I do know. I recognize more words in reading and hearing than I can access from my memory alone.

A few years ago I wrote down a simple poem that came to me in Spanish. I can’t remember if I shared it or not. Maybe I did.

Yesterday I had to take my vehicle in to fix a tire that had a screw lodged in it. I only found out about it when I took it for an oil change a few weeks ago. I haven’t driven it much, but I confess I have driven it around town with that screw. It’s fixed now. I took it in and decided to walk briskly to BART and get to work that way. Along the way I took out my notebook—the thoughts and words were coming to me in Spanish. This time, I’m sharing it. I first scribbled it out in Spanish as best I could and then this morning, I rewrote what I had, adding and subtracting to try and get at that moment. I then translated it into English. The feel of translating my own words and thoughts—even if simple—from Spanish to English is quite a feeling—aligning—joining with my Mexican heritage, with my grandparents—indescribable.

p.s. Please forgive me if I’ve made some errors in the Spanish version and feel free point it out.  :)  One more note: One word I had to write in English on the Spanish version to look up because I couldn’t remember was “empties.” The Spanish word that seemed the right one was “se vacía.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blank Page for Today

Feeling blank, yet full. I told myself that I wasn’t going to write about feeling blank, but I cant fight it. I can only follow its lead into the dance, let him lead the way. I give my hand—ready to surrender. I no know other way. I must give up the need to control and I have gotten better with that. Yoda’s words leap into my awareness: “Don’t try, just do.” I accept that there will be many “blank page” moments, I embrace it, and I tell myself that I shouldn’t be embarrassed to write and share them when they occur.

Two days ago I was taken by that solitary bird that I saw sitting up high in the bare tree. Simple. We may see this image everyday, but it meant so much to me. It spoke deeply to me. I saw it from the freeway. I was not driving, so I looked for as long as I could and took my notebook out, sketched the simple image as a reminder and wrote a few words to try and capture the moment. Later when I reflected on Red Room Member, Nancy Smith’s (Nan’s) “Connections???” blog comment back to me about why she writes Haiku. We were talking about connections and coincidences and She said, “I think that may be part of the reason I write Haiku (making connections between nature and myself). Or I may be just deluding myself.” Well from the little bit I understand about Haiku, Nan’s definitely not deluding herself. And though I have read haiku a little bit, I never tried to write one in the 5-7-5 syllable three line count. I found it very challenging. I liked the utter simplicity, almost childlikeness of my original words, nothing particularly unique, but it’s what I saw and it was a way for me to remember. If anything, the “trying” may have taken some of the spontaneous steam out of me.

That’s why usually when I write, I write. But there are times, of course, when I do some planning; well, maybe not so much planning—OK, it must be planning. I suppose it really depends on what it is I’m writing. I like using different containers to write in and sometimes it’s pure free write, other times, I edit as best I can, cutting, adding, cutting. I don’t know that I will spend too much time writing haiku in the future. Nature and I have always been close and she and he have spoken to me and I think that for now, I may stick to letting the words of expression come as they will because I reminded myself that when I try, I get locked up. On the other hand, it’s a good exercise for me to incorporate both trying and not trying.

The other connection that occurred is when I went to the bookshelf and pulled, One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers by Gail Sher. It’s a book I always come back to because I feel like I’m visiting an old friend. In her introduction she shares how in order to get herself back to writing she wrote one haiku a day for several years.  Another nugget that spoke to me from her introduction is when she says, “Writing comes like an urge or a pulse, not to say something; but to be with words as they arise and then to shape them or craft them. The words could be wood. It makes no difference.” I’ve read this book at least two times in my life and this will be my third. This time, I underlined those words. It makes me feel alive when I read words that speak directly to me, that resonate so deeply with me and in their own way encourage me and explain an experience for me in a way that gets right to the core. I jump up in excitement!
This also led me to download a “Kindle Single” as the shorter works are referred to, an essay, rather than a full e-book titled, “The Heart of Haiku” by Jane Hirshfield.

The process. Over the many years I have grown to respect the process—I love the process. I set out here today, literally feeling blah and not knowing where I was going, but then as I took my tools, took those words and began following them, connecting them somehow with the experience that I was feeling inside, with the experience that I felt outside, and just following, following—this is where I ended up—one and a half blank pages later.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One lone sparrow perched

One lone sparrow perched
Tree bare of leaves shaken free
Keeping watch, now rise

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tarot ~ Card of the Day

Today I felt compelled to select one card from the Tarot deck with no question in mind—just for a general feel: Self speaking to self. I shuffled and a card got away, landed right there. I hesitated at first, then decided that was going to be the one. I flipped it over. 3 of Disks: Works.

The background of the card makes me think of the ocean waves, of seagulls flying outward and fish swimming in a frenzy. The water is calm around the white seashell tinted pyramid in the center that glows with white light; dainty light green swords meet the three corners and connect at each peak with a red disk flower shaped wheel.

It’s been a while since I pulled this card. At first when I see it, I feel pragmatism. Looking closer, it’s as though yes, there is that practical aspect, but then there is also a creativity that lingers. The title of the card confirms that sense of pragmatism that I feel.

But upon reading the meanings, I feel more at ease. It makes some sense and probes me to contemplate further.

In Angeles Arrien’s book, The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols, in part, she says, “The Three of Disks is the capacity to give things ‘the works.’ It represents persistence, tenacity, and getting clear on your priorities and commitments.”

From Tarot: Mirror of the Soul, Gerd Ziegler says, “The three wheels symbolize body, mind and spirit.”

Gerd leaves us with the following affirmation for this card:

“Affirmation: I am now ready to give everything and receive everything.”

(Tarot Deck used: Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck).

I hope that you might also be able to find a little something here in landing on this card.

Peace and love to all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Marking Time

It became noticeable yesterday when we were driving back from the grocery store to home at about 7:30 PM.

“The days are already starting to get shorter.”


“Look, it's almost dark and people have their headlights on already. Two weeks ago when we took our walk at this time it was much lighter.”

“Is daylight savings in October?”

“No, it's in early November this year—but gosh, it seems it's already here.”

I may not have noticed as much except for when I glanced down at my watch and made the association with our sometimes after-dinner walks. Usually in the Fall, it's time to bring the flashlight out to light our path along the dark road. It's nice to have these markers and it's not always the case and I often don't like looking at the clock—the time too much—but I can see it has its place to help bring a little order to the beautiful non-order of life—the sublime chaos and fractals of life.

See you soon, Dear Autumn.

Each day, I feel you pushing gently through that door a little more and a little more. Crackling branches; berry and nut collectors; cool chill gliding on wings of Father Wind blowing gently. Window blinds caressing against the window, going back and forth to mark the change.

Early sunsets and many more changes—quietude and solace wrapped into a glistening ornament of burnt orange purple and blood red.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If I Could Hear Myself in the Mirror

We planned on eating dinner out that day—only one day to buy last minute items for our Labor Day camping weekend trip. We drove around the block and around the streets, finally a parking place opened up. I had suggested we eat at the salad place. When we walked in, I was frozen by the long line that wrapped around the salad bar. We needed a quick meal.

“What do you think? Should we go someplace else,” I asked

“If we go someplace else, we’ll still have to wait. It’s dinner hour.”

“Yeah, but this line is so long. We can ask the person before we place our order how long she thinks it will take.”


At this point, there was one more pair in front of us. They stared at the menu board in front of them, consulting with each other on what to order, their bodies huddled together. I kept looking around the restaurant and at the line, and then at them.

They turned to us. “You can go ahead,” the woman said. “We’re still trying to decide.

“Thank you!” we said. We approached the counter ready with our order.

“How long do you think it will take?” I asked the cashier.

She wrinkled her nose and put her pencil up to her mouth. “Oh, about…10 to 15 minutes.”

We looked at each other, nodded approval, and placed our order.

I let out a long breath and we edged up behind the others. I looked around and now felt more at ease to take in the wood architecture of the space we were in. Medium toned wood with plenty of space in between conjured images of a Spa. It was light, airy, natural. Clinking and clanking drizzled out of the kitchen area; Salad chefs focused on filling orders. I saw rows of spice jars up on the ledge of a carved out window. Desserts. They also appeared to serve a few other special dinner items, but I was in such a rush, that we both missed the specials board.

We edged up another foot, then the line actually seemed to be moving and I tisk-tisked myself silently at my reaction whenever I see a line. We chit chatted about how everything looked good and next time we’ll look at the specials board because whatever that was over there looked good.

As we edged toward the last three quarters of the line, I was drifting and then I caught the conversation behind us and I couldn’t help but listen. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that it was a young couple that may or may not have been a “couple.” I didn’t hear what was originally said, but it was what came after that interested me.

He said something first.

“And why are you telling me this?” she said.

“I don’t know. I’m just telling you,” he said.

“Seems out of the blue. Is there a reason you’re telling me now?” she said.

“No,” he said. He shifted one leg to the other.

“It just seems odd,” she said.

After that I tuned out. I didn’t hear too much more out of them.

We ate our meal and decided we needed to make one more stop that was within walking distance. We waited at the stop light and I asked my significant other if he heard the conversation behind us.

“No,” he said.

“You know how when you sometimes say something to me and I ask you why now—why are you brining that up now?”

“Yeah, you do that don’t you? You overanalyze things sometimes.”

“Well, that’s the conversation I just heard behind us in line. Isn’t that something? I know I do that but to see it. I felt bad for the guy.”

“Sometimes when we say something. There isn’t more to it than what we said.”

“I think he was just making conversation.”

“And sometimes we might get into an argument over it.”

“Yeah, and all because I might try to look for something that’s not there. It’s not too often I get to see what something looks like from that perspective. It was like listening to us on a few occasions.”

The light turned from red to green, we kissed, and walked to our next destination.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Comfort Food

Koi in the pond at a Japanese Garden

Chicken with Mole

On Thursday I decided to buy a jar of Mole (pronounced: MO-Lay) sauce because I know it’s one of my significant other’s favorites and when we were at his mom’s house, I had tried it for the first time. I don’t recall my grandmother making it, but I would be surprised if she didn’t. She would often make something with eggs for me served with a side of beans and rice. That explains why I love eggs so much!

I asked his mom questions about her Mole sauce and she did start with a prepared jar of Mole and then added more chilies and Mexican chocolate. I grew up with Mexican chocolate—round disks of chocolate and cinnamon goodness. This was two months ago and I don’t know that I had any intention of using the sauce because at the time, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. You know how sometimes it takes more than one time for something to make an impression.

When I was trying to think of an economical chicken dish, I thought of her Chicken drumsticks with Mole that she prepared that day. Drumsticks are one of my favorite parts of the chicken. I prefer fried chicken, but that’s not the healthiest, so I thought how can I make these drumsticks more interesting without a lot of acid. I told my significant other about my idea and told him that it wouldn’t be the same as his mom’s, and that for starters I would just stick to the jar to see what the flavor profile was like and maybe next time, I could add more ingredients.

I got two packages of drumsticks, so we would have leftovers and I only got one jar of Mole. I boiled the drumsticks in salted water with skins on. I boiled them a good hour to be on the safe side. Meanwhile, I read the instructions on the jar of Mole. I had to heat the paste up with four parts of a liquid, either water or soup stock, to one part of the paste. I used the whole jar and gradually added three parts of water, and decided that for the fourth part, I would add the chicken stock from the drumsticks for a little extra flavor. Even though I didn’t make the Mole from scratch, with all the stirring I did, I sure felt like I did. I put more love into stirring that Mole sauce than I think I’ve put into anything I’ve made. I was sweating and stirring. The stirring had to be constant because as you can imagine, a cocoa paste is pretty thick and it keeps wanting to roll itself up. I tasted it along the way and it didn’t quite excite me at first. I could detect the heat of the chilies and of course the unsweetened cocoa dominance made it feel slightly bland on my tongue. I counted on the taste elevating when I added the last part of chicken stock, and then brought the chicken together with the Mole sauce.

At last the chicken was done cooking and after letting it sit a while to cool off, I took some pieces out, pulled the skin off and discarded it and added the drumsticks to the prepared Mole sauce. Dinner was served with rice and tortillas. My significant other was pleased with how it turned out. I told him that though it was a jar, I put a lot of love into stirring that sauce, making sure it didn’t burn and kept it smooth. He smiled.

The following day, we both took leftovers. That’s when it hit me. I couldn’t believe how I had missed out on Mole for all my life. I never ordered it on menus because chocolate—in my mind and taste buds—did not belong in a dinner dish. When I took my leftovers out of the microwave, the chicken was tender and juicy, coming off the bone in nice pieces; the Mole sauce had re-softened and I felt the excitement in my mouth that I hoped I would find when I set out to prepare this meal. I was having one of those food moments where you can’t stop the mmmmm’s and ohhhh’s.

Chilaquiles and a Perfectly Lazy Sunday

My childhood home was one house away from my grandparent’s home and I would find myself walking up the sidewalk several times a day for a visit and always for something good to eat. One of my comfort foods is Chilaquiles and there are many variations. What makes it what it is are the tortillas ripped into pieces and cooked up in lard or the cooking oil on hand and then scrambled with eggs. My grandmother knew just how I liked them. Plain, simple, and soft. She would let the tortilla pieces cook until they were tender and then she would add two scrambled eggs, let it set and then flip it over. That was my comfort food and it still is. She used to make Chilaquiles for my brother too. He liked his tortillas crispy and he also liked her to add tomatoe sauce at the end. When my uncle has prepared this dish for me, he makes the tortillas more crispy because that’s how he likes it and he adds Monterey Jack cheese at the end.

My comfort food showed up yesterday along with my Lazy Sunday. I knew that I wanted to stay in. I felt like we’ve had such a non-stop schedule on weekends, that I really needed a break. I told my significant other that I really just wanted to stay at home and relax. I knew that he would need to get out because not everyone can just sit in all day, so I encouraged him to do so—to go out and get some air. We eased into the day. I had already been up and reading and when he did finally go out, I continued reading. When I started to get hungry, I remembered we had some bacon left, so I decided I would have Chilaquiles with bacon. I cut the bacon into squares, added chopped onion and let it cook up a bit, then I added the ripped tortillas, a little butter and olive oil, and when everything smelled and looked how I wanted it, I added three scrambled eggs. I sat at the table and ate my food lovingly, always thinking of my grandmother when I eat this dish. I washed it down with some water and I was back to reading. I spent the whole day inside and it felt amazing. I did take a break and put my laundry away. Then back to reading. Sometimes I take a nap, but when I laid my head down, I was back up quick. It started getting hot. I turned the ceiling fan on in the bedroom. The bright light shined through— and after a gray morning and a light rain! With the cool air from the fan, the bright sunlight for reading, and the whites from the duvet cover and the walls reflecting the natural light, I felt like I was in absolute peace of mind.

Some of my Reading

I’ve recently started reading, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Funny thing is I owned this book when it came out. Never read it. Wasn’t ready. This time around I’ve enjoyed it very much. I think it’s funny how he swears a lot. The first half of the book focuses on his life, how he became a writer and the second half of the book focuses on the craft of writing in a conversational way.

On a recent visit to the library, I was looking for one book, but found another. Death with Interruptions by the Portuguese writer Jose Saramago. I have not read any of this writer’s works. It sounds different and intriguing. I hope it hooks me until the end.

I read a little bit more of Franz Kafka’s The Trial and I think to myself: Is it possible to get 2/3 of the way through a book, leave it for a couple of years and pick up where I left off? I’ve done this with other books, but is it realistically possible? Can I hold enough of the story in limbo for so long and just begin where I left off? Or do I need to start over?

I did the same with Milan Kundera’s Immortality. It is not the easiest novel to read and a tricky one to come back to after much time has gone by. My favorite part will always be the opening when we are introduced to Agnes. I can only say that the portrait and scene he created—and he did it in one and a quarter pages—will always be a part of me. It’s universal and one who reads it and sees themselves there will know what I mean.

I’ve also read a few short stories:

“The Father” by Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson (1838-1910).
I had read this one some time ago and found it in a free Kindle collection. I was glad to be re-connected with it.

“The Great Stone Face” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

“The Ice Palace” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have never read any of Fitzgerald’s short stories. When I was done with this one, I needed to go right back to the beginning. I am planning on reading it through again. I loved The Great Gatsby when I read it in school.

I’m ready for Flannery O’Connor. The book of commemorative essays that I shared in another post has made me want to read her even more. I started, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and knowing what the story is about, I’m curious to see how it develops. I left off at the part where the car approaches and the grandmother realizes this isn’t the place. As I mentioned before, I’m surprised I’ve never come across any of her work in an English class and I didn’t venture in her direction on my own. And though I had checked her book of short stories out, I hadn’t cracked it past the table of contents. But her title was enough to inspire my blog, “A Good Pan is Hard to Find.” Something about her presence is calling me. I’m ready for you, Flannery O’Connor!

And so, it was a week and a Sunday filled with comfort food. A much needed long stretch of time to re-fuel my soul.

Happy Reading and Writing & Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Turning Inward

La Luna (The Moon)

Taking a break from reading blogs. Taking a break from the need to write and share, turning back inward, getting re-acquainted with the quiet space—the solitude. September is upon us, October is not far behind. The last three months of the year always bring a certain feeling to me—a mixture of sadness and wanting to turn inward. I look forward to the cool chill in the air and the mist on the horizon. I look forward to being cozy and sitting curled up by an imaginary fire. I look forward to the multi-layered tones of gray in the sky that offer the perfect backdrop for the colors that are present—to shine through. The greens always look greener; the yellows, the oranges, reds—all of the colors are given a new life—appearing as if electricity burns through and onto the gray canvas of the clouds and atmosphere. I look forward to the sound of the windshield wipers on the window, brushing the rain drops from the glass. And seeing the deer family sipping water from the rain kissed leaves.