Catitude – the Wisdom of Fiona

With the passing of a beloved pet it’s natural to reflect on all the ones who came before.  Each had a special legacy,  memories and moments that are touchstones in the lives we shared.  Fiona, my cat who just departed after 16 years,  gave me the gift of Catitude.

Chill FionaCatitude is attitude and gratitude, from a cat’s perspective. Catitude is knowing what you want and not being afraid to ask, or quietly persist if needed. It’s the freedom to be yourself  and to know that when you purr, the world purrs with you. There is only one master of the universe and you are it, or at least you should be.

Sometimes this can lead to disenchantment, as the world fails to meet expectations. Fiona Fiona’s wishes were not always granted, but she did not fall into the kind of ennui  Henri the Cat so aptly personifies. Research has shown that dogs evoke a kind of maternal bonding in their human companions.  We treat them as adoring, often goofy children, the kind that love you no matter what. Cats, not so much.

While humans have designed 340 dog breeds, cats have remained truer to their original domesticated form, even with 70 recognized breeds found around the world.  They formed a partnership of convenience with humans, replacing weasels, (who were too ornery) as efficient rodent assassins.  Once they were deified in Egypt, our relationship changed forever.

Blaze

Cat people tend to either love their “fur babies” or they enjoy the elegant and generally quieter companionship of their cat friends.  Artists have a particular affinity for a well-designed feline.  Fiona’s appealing form and her obvious happiness when I  worked in my studio made her my muse, infusing the space with her aesthetic presence. The only other time she seemed as content was when she was sleeping, with an angelic smile that need not beg forgiveness for the day’s petty misdeeds.

Our relationship was complicated, which brings me to the gratitude side of Catitude. Some relationships are challenging.  They impel us to find new responses to old aspects of ourselves that never seem to go away, even when we project them onto others.  This mirroring tendency is one way cats have shown us how to withdraw our projections and release the stress of the day. Hanging out with your cat, letting your senses respond to the flow of the tall grass and waving tree branches swaying in the wind is healing.  It releases the mind from fears of a world in turmoil and gives the soul space to breathe.

FionaAngel

A love that’s not easy reminds us that other beings might wish we were somehow different. And that we can’t always be right, or wrong. It helps us see through another’s eyes and recognize their truth instead of disregarding an irritating point of view.  Our compassion grows with the challenge of a dynamic relationship.

We learn the mystery of life and death with the loss of our dear ones; a part of our soul has left with them.  My cats have taught me much of love, death and the circle of life.

CircleFi

We miss you, Fiona. Thanks for sharing your life and your death.  May love carry you into the mystery and bring you home.

2015 Baton Rouge Blues Festival

Quiana_Lynell
http://www.quianalynell.com/

My family and I converged in Louisiana to celebrate my birthday at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival. The lineup featured 5 blues stages, including: Swamp, Foundation, Soul of Baton Rouge, Back Porch and Busking outdoors. Due to anticipated thunderstorms, everything was moved indoors, so some of the charm was definitely lost. But where else would we get a day of the blues in so many hues?

Walking over to the convention center we got to see a bit of Baton Rouge, including some majestic dancing oaks.

Chubby Carrier and the Swamp Bayou Band rocked the swamp stage

while Alex Abel and Jordan Farho of The Chambers (17 and 19 years old) played hard and heavy upstairs on the Back Porch

Son Little (Roots and RJD2) played a short but sweet set and made a few new fans, including NPR, who put him on the Songs we Love list

There are far too many acts to review, but I’ve included video snippets from some of my favorite performances and and some classic photos.

Hometown icon, Lazy Lester took us to church

and would have stolen the show except for the amazing grace of (what ever happened to) Arrested Development

Charles Bradley would have fared better playing between Lazy Lester and Arrested Development. Still, The World is Going up In Flames is nothing but the blues.

Speaking truth to fear – A Neolithic perspective

The hashtags keep multiplying: #Ferguson, #EricGarner, #CrimingWhileWhite, #ICantBreathe. The list has no real beginning and there’s no end in sight to media presentations of social pathology – rape, murder, war or our immanent destruction of the earth. It’s depressing and real, although imbalanced. For every step forward, must we take 4 steps back? How can we gain and maintain ground in our struggle to become more humane people?

Alicia Keyes’ new song is a powerful reminder of many who have given their lives for the advancement of love. Paul Alexander Wolf, half a world away, reminds us that civil rights has always meant rights for all people. Our political legacy holds both the best and the cruelest of our intentions. My friend Licia Berry writes about being broken open, something we experience both personally and culturally.

The proliferation of inflammatory “news programs” spewing racially charged misinformation has never been so successful, with recent November ratings for Fox News far surpassing its rivals.   Hate speech is fear mongering.  White America is losing all the ground it gained during the industrial revolution and a series of highly profitable wars, a real bummer for the lower 99%.   Judgement Day may become very unappealing for Christians who aren’t taken up in the Rapture. rapture  Post apocalyptic fantasy is big money at the box office, yet another sign of the decline of Western civilization.

How do we avoid creating a world held captive by the exquisite corpse of our unexpressed guilt and shame?  Perhaps we can start by looking at where we came from.  If we can face that truth, it might give us the platform we need to move beyond our fear of immigrants, people of color and the many other excuses we cling to for denying our shared humanity.

AncestryComposition_IllustrationPictured here is a sample map of the genomic composition of someone’s ancestry.  It’s similar to the maps my family and I have from the DNA tests we ordered from 23andMe. My own chart is largely Northern European, but my primary MtDNA (mother’s) genome is from a very early Neolithic migration from India/Anatolia into Southeastern Europe.  These were farmers, bringing agriculture and livestock to the hunter-gatherers who had survived centuries of glaciation in caves.  Interbreeding with small populations of Neanderthals, these cave dwellers also included other early Homo Sapiens populations like the now extinct Heidelbergensis and the  Denisovans.

Modern homo sapiens sapiens can be traced back to an original pair of humans we fondly call Adam and Eve, in Africa, roughly 150,000 – 100,000 years ago.   out_of_africaThe map to the right shows broad patterns of migration out of Africa, everyone’s original homeland.   Human beings are travelers, we are immigrants who have explored our world for hundreds of thousands of years.  Migration is the human condition, it was then and it is now.  Trying to stop the flow of humanity as we continue to seek shelter: #WeCantBreathe. It might be a good idea to come to some kind of peace before we seriously consider colonizing Mars, which is fast becoming more science than fiction.settlement-mug-trans As one who grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series, I appreciated the diversity of life forms in those stories and hope we will meet teachers who will help us outgrow our barbaric reliance on war and violence. A girl can dream.

Time will tell whether we can love the Earth enough not to destroy her.  Aside from a common history of love and war we must acknowledge that once homo sapiens were all dark skinned.  It’s the Neanderthal influence that gave Europeans their light hair and eyes.  WilmaWe also received genes that boosted our immune systems and helped us survive the cold. Over time, as more people settled in cooler environments, our skin and hair paled as an adaptation to lower UV levels.  But our common heritage is both African and dark brown.

Before I took this trip back in time and opened the horizon of my imagination to pre-history, I felt burdened by the violence, the racism and the lack of charity we show one another.  Passing laws that prohibit the feeding of the poor, that malign migrants or other races while proclaiming Christian righteousness?  We are so afraid that the centuries of colonial domination will turn against us, so afraid to look an American Indian person in the eye and realize we have committed genocide, decimating the native population by 97% in our heedless conquest of the New World.  Afraid to stand before a black person and acknowledge the undeniable and ongoing history of violence and racism  American European immigrants have perpetuated.  CrushOurEnemiesThe more we hate ourselves, the easier it is to hate each other.  There is another choice.  We can choose love, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King states so passionately below.  How to make amends? Time to find out.

The Exquisite Corpse, Family Constellations and the Fractal Nature of Time

Iceberg
Charles Long CATALIN, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin.

One of my most haunting dreams, actually a dream into waking experience, happened several years ago.  I was just waking up from a deep sleep and felt myself rising up into my body, into consciousness.  First, I became aware of myself as a mountain, part of a range of peaks. I didn’t remember my name until I got to the very top of the mountain, and then I remembered that I am Evelyn.  It was shocking, recognizing this re-prioritized identity.  For a fleeting moment, my fundamental self was a part of a submerged (to my consciousness) ancestral range and only at the  peak lived my normal waking self.  It was an iconic moment, an anchor of knowing that has encouraged me to explore the  intergenerational transmission of talent and of trauma that I knew lurked in my family’s subconscious.  We recognize physical and intellectual traits that are passed along the family vine but what about deeply felt experiences and  patterns of behavior?   My mother’s family in Vienna, Austria experienced two World Wars and their shattering aftermath and my father was also a veteran and military officer. These traumas affected me subconsciously, while certainly impacting my parents’ capacity to nurture.

Psychoanalysts Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok’s book The Shell and the Kernel describes the process by which trauma is either assimilated into the psyche of the individual (introjection), often through a process of mourning. Or, by the creation of an exquisite corpse, trauma is entombed and buried in a subconscious crypt, where healing does not occur. Further, they suggest that these corpses can become ghosts, haunting families through several generations, unless they can be uncovered and healing and understanding are facilitated.

I bring this up hot on the heels of a wonderful movie I saw, The Book Thief. The story is narrated by Death who follows a young girl, Liesel, when she goes to live with strangers after the Nazi’s imprisoned her mother, during the build up to WWII. Eventually, the war destroys the lives of the villagers, the bombs fall and many die. It might as well have been the story of my mother’s childhood. It affected me in a powerful way, evoking painful impressions of how much my mother, grandmother and great grandmother suffered during two wars in Vienna. My father was a soldier too, but it is my mother’s family trauma that I’ve been the most impacted by. Those who lose their loved ones, their homes and their lives in war or other disasters are haunted. Sometimes I think this world has become overburdened with ghosts.

As part of a guided autobiography project, I started exploring and writing about family relationships and intergenerational transmission .  A friend recommended Bert Hellinger’s work on Family Constellations. While I won’t go into a lot of detail in this post, what peaked my interest was his theory that members of a family create and interact with an energy field they share and navigate more or less successfully.  The field is an integrating mechanism and meta consciousness that can include grandparents, former partners and the dead.  Anngwyn St. Just, whose book Trauma: Time, Space and Fractals discusses the transmission of unresolved trauma in the family and at the cultural level, suggests a new way of contextualizing this in time and place. Seeing time and space as a continuum, mapped in fractal patterns creates interesting perspectives on inherited family themes.

This video from Charles Long’s show illustrates both the way individual members are positioned, their submerged aspects and the fractal element in the map behind the grouping.  He has also incorporated sound and smell, a delightful multisensory experience.

This is just a preview of family constellation therapy and  my ongoing preoccupation with non-linear models of time.  Both have excited skepticism and appreciation, which we’ll explore further, anon.

Memorial Day – honor the sacrifice and pray for peace

LtEvI was and will always be an army brat.  My dad, Bill was a career army officer who started his service as a medic in World War II.  His father, Alan served in World War I and our ancestor, Acors Sheffield Porter was a captain in the Civil War. There are many things I love and admire about the honor and service to country that military men and women exemplify.  Indeed, I have both a young man and woman cousin who did tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Thank you so much for your service and heroism. Our hearts go out to those who did not return and to their families.

My dad and his brother grew up during the depression in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Al became a decorated fighter pilot and my father, who   Al & Bill suffered from epilepsy, went into the army and became a medic.  They are pictured here by the local swimming hole with no thought of what was to come.  Al and Bill went to college at the University of Wisconsin, where my dad enjoyed a stint as a houseboy for a sorority.  When duty called, he and his brother volunteered.  My cousins have stories from Al’s tour in the Pacific, but I don’t know any.  The only story I remember my father telling WWIIBillme was about playing poker next to the dead bodies of his friends.  The stress and the gore he experienced as a field medic triggered a series of grand mal seizures, which resulted in his reassignment as a photographer.  One wonders how much better that was, but he probably wasn’t covered in blood.  Dad didn’t know it then, but my mother and grandmother were struggling to survive the second war that destroyed most of Vienna and what remained of my grandfather, who was captured by the Russian army in WWI and II.   But for many, those years were the most vital, despite the loss of their youth and of those they loved. 

My father did not adapt well to civilian life, so when he was offered a career track in the Army, he reenlisted in 1953 and was assigned to help transition the US military out of occupied Vienna, Austria.  My mother always maintained that he was happiest in Vienna, enjoying the gemütlichkeit, and falling deeply in love. MomDadIf not for war my parents would never have met and I wouldn’t exist.  Would I give my life if it meant an end to war and peaceful resolution to our never ending conflicts?  Yes, I would.  There is honor in service to country, but there is no glory in war.  Warning: some of the images in the video below are heartbreaking.

Magically Real

Sunset in the hills
Sunset in the hills

As we think about Gabriel Garcia Marquez let us consider this description of magical realism from his Nobel acceptance speech:

“Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

Truer words were never spoken. Magic can manifest in many ways and if you are a dreamer, you can be assured it will. Sometimes it happens in times of peace, often it will occur when life has you by the throat. Because then, you must grow or die.

“Reality is also the myths of the common people,” Mr. García Márquez told an interviewer. “I realized that reality isn’t just the police that kill people, but also everything that forms part of the life of the common people.”

Being a common person, I’ve found sustenance in the little things of life: in nature, art and in light.

Like Isabel Allende, Tom Robbins, Carlos Castaneda and Paulo Coelho, Marquez opens the mind’s eye, reminding us to consider the mystery that is life. Swimmer
I include below a story of my own magical journey, one among many that taught me  to live with a sense of wonder.

The Magic of Blunn Creek

There are places in life that bear silent witness to our growing pains, like a tree house or special hideaway most of us had when we were children. I think we underestimate our continuing need for such havens when we are adults, grown ups who often suffer the child trapped within. Blunn Creek, flowing through several Austin, Texas neighborhoods, is my witness, the refuge for my evolution. When I was in my 20s, I lived by Stacy Park in Travis Heights. My dogs and I spent hours in Blunn Creek, which began for me then at Stacy Pool and ended at the hidden waterfall by Pecan Springs Rd. In the pale light of the moon towers, playing in their hexagonal shadows, or in golden hued afternoons, we coursed through the oaks with youthful abandon. Stacy Park holds many fond memories for me and my daughter, but it was later when I married and moved closer to St. Edward’s University, that the magic of Blunn Creek really manifested.

When I moved and started walking on the greenbelt in the Blunn Creek Nature preserve I was so grateful to be there. As I walked, my gratitude became prayers of thanks for the blessings of a new home and family. My friends and I were intrepid explorers of the preserve; an ancient remnant of the volcano that rumbled over 70 million years ago beneath what is now St. Edward’s University. Whenever I gazed at the city from the top of the volcanic overlook, I saw the far-ranging vision, the awesome perspective of geological eons. The trail became my muse, a refuge literally in my back yard, since our home flanked the greenbelt. It was a few years later that the dream of my marriage started to fade. The trail became a lifeline, my connection to the sustaining energy of the earth. A series of agonizing events, including the loss of marriage, job and home, set the stage for my eventual transformation, which was reflected in my connection to those healing woods. When I found some petrified bone chips on the trail I started a project that helped change my life.

BrLynchCoverIn July of 1997 I conducted an archeological survey of the St. Edward’s portion of the creek with the help of archeologist Rick Hubble, and my teacher Dr. Kay Sutherland. My friends Rene’ Barrera, the preserve manager and Brother Daniel Lynch, my fellow naturalist and preserve founder, were instrumental in this effort. Brother Daniel, with the help of a golden crowned night heron had convinced the city of Austin to buy the land that is now the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve when it was threatened by developers. With our discovery of a big flint core and stone chopper, I successfully petitioned the university to conduct a reconnaissance. We never found enough materials in context to justify an excavation, but maybe that was not the real reason for my search. When I am really focused on a project, my dreams often give me a glimpse of what is upcoming or of the underlying themes I may be unaware of. In one such dream, I was examining a dark brown piece of flint with a trough flaked into a circular pattern in the middle. At the top there was a very distinct crescent-shaped cutting edge. I stated in my dream, “Oh, a Nutter, commonly found in many areas of Central Texas.” The influence of Stone Tools of Texas, my primary reference source, was unmistakable. The next day I took my dogs, Queenie and Junior to Stacy Park, or north Blunn as I liked to call it then. I glanced down as we were coming up a hill by the creek and saw a piece of brown flint sticking up and thought, “Why not?” I worked it loose, brushed it off, and lo, I beheld, the rock of my dream down to every detail! The flaking, the trough, the crescent-shaped top edge were all the same. A flash of lightning shot through my body. I was transported by the feeling that I was in two worlds at once. It was as if the rock had materialized from my dream into my hand. I shouted “Wow!” to the dogs, my trusty companions, who reveled in my excitement. I suspect they understand, maybe better than we do how thin the veil between dreaming and waking can be.

Two months later, on September 15th, Brother Daniel Lynch returned to the light, a free bird. He passed on that Saturday at 4 am. The Thursday before, almost forty doves roosted in our back yard, which I have not seen before or since. Years later, as I read Carl Jung’s Synchronicity, he cited a large number of roosting birds as a fairly common synchronous manifestation in the immanent death of a loved one. Brother Daniel was the first dead person I had seen, an experience I shared with my daughter Aurora, who wanted to pay her respects. She said something truly profound as we looked at his body, so like a dry, fallen leaf. Aurora said that he had probably waited his whole life for this, to be joined with God. That was a comfort, but I was not comforted the Sunday before by a poorly handled announcement at church, and left crying. I went home and sat outside and cried for hours, mourning the loss of my saintly friend and wilderness preserves mentor. After really wallowing in it I thought again of the dig and finally had a positive thought: I decided to dedicate it to his memory and somehow continue his work on behalf of the Earth. Just as it occurred to me, a brownish/greenish-black bird flew right over, perched on my water glass and started drinking from it. It wiped its beak off on the side of the glass and started hopping off and back into my water glass. Then it got itself wet and jumped on the table, fluffing and shaking and scratching, clowning around. At one point it craned its neck and looked at me straight in the eye from its side-ways perspective. I knew it was a little Brother Daniel messenger come to give me solace. I tumped over my glass after it got stuck inside and finally, after shaking and scratching thoroughly it hopped onto my leg. Its feet were smooth like leather, and it moved sideways on my shin, stopping on my foot. After a while, I went inside for more water and came back out to find the bird still there. When I sat down it hopped onto my leg again and perched on my big toe, regally surveying the greenbelt. It was such a blessing; I had to laugh. What a joker.

The next morning I walked outside to empty the dogs’ water bucket and found to my dismay, the toad who came out every night to play. It was bobbing on the surface like a cork, legs stretched stiffly out in four directions. “Not this too,” I thought, remembering how many times it had come out at night to play with the dogs, or in spite of them. I moved it out of the water, although it was white and stiff as a little board, and heard a burp. It blinked one eye, so I left it in the monkey grass, and then moved it into a plant, although it did not move and its limbs were still stiffly outstretched. A half-hour later, I watched it hop away. That frog had given up the ghost. You could see the disbelief on its face as it came back to life. I took it as a sign that resurrection is part of life and death. I was at a point in my life where pleasure and pain were constantly blending. Love and anger, life and death were one waking and dreaming convergence.

The foxes of Blunn Creek taught me a most valuable lesson in the spring of 1998. One day, as I was walking on the greenbelt, sinking down my tap root (a meditative technique), I thanked God for the earth, letting love circulate back into it while drawing the energy out. Pretty soon I felt like I was glowing, alight. There was a quick rustling sound to my left as I walked up the hill to the volcanic overlook. At the same time, I heard a sharp bark/growl to my right and looked over to stare right into the eyes of a large grey fox. I was so surprised that the fox had allowed me to see it, especially during the day. I spoke soothingly to let it know I meant no harm. We stared at each other for at least 5 minutes without moving, which felt like a long time. It was mesmerizing. I kept seeing the face changing, as it looked alternately like a dog yet was also catlike, with luminous yellow eyes. It was the largest fox I had seen and was still standing there staring when I turned to keep walking up the hill. I felt there was a meaning to the fox coming out in the open like that, but didn’t interpret it until later after another dreaming convergence.

About a month later I dreamt I was in a city like Chicago, with a distinctive skyline and a lake between myself and it. A plane like the kind that docks at space stations came into view wobbling and obviously in trouble. I started shouting like Chicken Little “Run, run, it’s going down!” The plane went behind the buildings and I paused in my flight, waiting to hear the explosion. As I turned around to see what was happening, an older Polynesian-looking woman, with a dark, wide face and soft features, grabbed my arm, pointed and said “Look!” The plane rose up at a 45 degree angle, with little more than a crease at the bottom. The woman said emphatically, “See?” As I stared at the plane, its license plate flashed into focus. It was my name, “Evelyn”. I felt like my life was on the rise and things would be OK, that I would not crash and burn. Two weeks later, I was talking with my friend Joe and it occurred to me very clearly that an old woman was coming to meet me. I told him, because I had felt her before, but this time I sensed her getting closer. I stayed home the following week because I was not feeling well and happened to catch an interview on KUT with a Hopi grandmother. She was traveling around the country getting people together to remind us to thank the creator for our lives and give love to the earth. I liked her tone and her simplicity and wondered if she was the woman I was to meet. Her name was Constance Mirabal.

That Friday, I went to an introductory session at Casa de Luz to meet Grandmother Connie. To my surprise, but not consternation, she was the same woman from my plane dream, not just someone who looked like her. She was very warm and kind, explaining that she was there for anyone who needed a grandmother and that the weekend prayer gathering in Wimberley was for us to participate in, not just to observe. There were people from Alaska, Kentucky, Australia, all over the world at the meeting. I spoke with her that evening and she reassured me that I should not feel weird about my animal experiences, that they were a gift that I could explore and share. I told the story in the prayer circle as I fed the sacred fire about putting down my “tap root” when I walked in the woods, drawing up the energy from the earth while giving thanks. A school teacher had spoken just before I got up and asked for help because she was so depleted and had no energy to teach any more. I was giving and gathering energy when the fox came out into the open and faced me and that was the message I was to share. I am really grateful to have the feeling and the visual image of Grandmother Connie to remind me to trust in God. She lives according to the dictates of the creator and is genuinely filled with peace and joy, willing to share with everyone.

I moved away from Blunn Creek in 2001, but go back occasionally to visit my favorite towering oak, who always reminds me to keep my tap root deep in the earth and to give thanks. Gratitude enriches me as much as my love of Nature, providing a glimpse from time to time, of the miracles that hide just beneath the lull of our daily lives. Taking those walks in the nature preserve saved my soul and my sanity. I can only thank Brother Daniel again for ensuring that the Blunn legacy was saved, and for protecting our little oasis in South Austin. I’m sure I’m not the only one with healing tales to tell.

Shelter from the storm

Seduction is the opposite of freedom. The promise of release, satisfaction and pleasure fueled the fantasy of sex, drugs and rock n’roll. It was fun, it was tragic, it was (often fatally) flawed. The hangover was a real bitch and by the time it was done, so was I.

My friends were beautiful, younger and still clubbing. They introduced me to the man who would become my husband, a man I loved and hated and eventually left, to save my soul. There were good times, many fantastic shows and a great community of friends who made sure the party never ended. It’s hard to write about a time that arouses such longing and even more regret. In the end I admitted that our love was truly in vain and that train left the station.

If you ever find yourself hating someone, you will pay the price in self-loathing. I’m still working through the dark grottoes carved into my soul, honoring the good, releasing the bad and mending the hole in my heart. If only it were this simple.

Beware of seduction, it is a lie. The only freedom is found in truth.

Travis Heights – Past and Present

Took the day to follow the breadcrumbs to my old neighborhood. I spent the better part of three decades in Travis Heights, during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. So much of my youth played out in the streets and parks winding along South Congress (in the days before the circus came to stay.) My boyfriend played in a band, I played soccer and worked part time, went out most nights and enjoyed rent that went from $125 to $150, then $250 and eventually, after 25 years $425/mo. Soap Creek Saloon, the Austex Lounge and the lone survivor, The Continental Club were an easy walk. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a musician or an artist. Today, the new homes are a mix of boxy, architectural digest McMansions and older bungalows on steroids, with a few originals sprinkled around awaiting transformation. It is the story of new, old and aging Austin, where gentrification is whimsical and typically lacking in grace.

Today, I wanted to walk the path at Stacy Park, sit in a tree and visit the places I once called home. Some of my fondest memories are there with my dogs: Star, a big black dog and Cosmo, who was white with black patches on his eyes and tail. CosmoThey streaked up and down the park and usually stayed close to the woman who ran with the wolves. It was fun, we were fast and I only got bowled over once, a painful tailbone injury I will never forget. The cliff that hung over a part of the creek bathed in the moon’s glow once long ago – stark white with 3 black dogs looking for rocks – had collapsed. That moment lingers in my minds eye, a memory silhouette infused with hexagonal moon tower light. The waterfall on the other side of Pecan Grove has been cleared and the creek flowed steady, but I didn’t check to see if the daddy long leg colony bounced in a bunch under the cliff and I missed the 9 foot tall cattails. There were crawdads in the creek then – the neighbor boy who tried to convince me (unsuccessfully) that Rush was the greatest band ever would bring me the big ones. 502EMary

502 E Mary Street was my home then, which I shared with my partner, Jim. The big tree in the back yard is still there, a stately tribute to the times Star would peel my cat Simba off by his head, running around the yard with him dangling in her mouth. I stayed for a while after Jim went west, living with Connie and then Saffron, who sang in the Chromatics. It was all about the music. SimbaStar

In 1980 I traded working part time at the library and going to school for the art gallery and video studio, waiting tables and partying like it was 1999, but in 1980. Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and David Bowie gave way to the B52s, Devo and Talking Heads. Antones moved to the old Shakey’s Pizza location on Guadalupe and we got Paul Ray and the Cobras, Stevie and Jimmy Vaughn and Angela Strehli. At Emmajo’s and Jalapeno Charlie’s Butch Hancock, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely were playing alone and together – still are, though both Emmajo’s and Jalepeno Charlie are gone.

When I moved to a tiny house a few blocks over at 506 Leland it was raining men, women, transsexuals, all manner of strange bedfellows. There was no method to my madness, just a walk on the wild side. I remember Michael Florio in his platform shoes and his Puerto Rican afro singing that Lou Reed song to me in the back of a van just before I set off with a band of Merry Pranksters for the Shenandoah River Valley to camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But I digress. Gardener's Tiny House at 506 Leland

For ten years the Amdur Gallery informed much of my artistic and hedonistic sensibilities, while Dixie’s Bar and Bus Stop and Café Brasil helped close the chapter on my carefree, youthful indiscretions. Such a great time to write, paint, make videos, ride my bike and dance. While it didn’t do much to put money in the bank, living the life in my 20s and 30s infused my spirit with a joie de vivre I might not feel as often now but I can always remember, vividly. My parents might have had the war and the American dream, but my youth in Travis Heights was time well (mis)spent. Like an atmospheric southern novel, heavy with the sound of cicadas and the scent of blooming trees, I occasionally dream of those nights, laughing and prowling the streets with my friends. I felt it today when I walked the trail and returned to my homes, thinking of my loved ones come and gone and my daughter, who joined me on Leland and started a whole new life.

CottageIn the manner of people who don’t have much and whose guardian angels (my beloved landlords) provide welcome transitions, I moved next door from the gardeners shack to the slightly larger cottage at 508 Leland. Aurora, my daughter was just starting to walk when our friends helped hand carry our possessions over and we stretched out into a new yet familiar home. Lee, her dad and I managed to live together for a few years, and then it was just Aurora and me for the next few. There are so many wonderful memories of my friends and our children who grew up together in Travis Heights. Aurora jumping on the jogging trampoline in the rain in her bathing suit and umbrella, swimming at Stacy pool and walking with her to Travis Elementary, coffee cup in hand. We were close, in a way single parents and their only children are. Times were sometimes tough, but they were fun and filled with love as well. We made it through with the help of friends and family, for which I am eternally thankful.

AuroraEvWe didn’t stay alone for long and the next era, like Texas weather is filled with extremes: sunny by day, thunderstorms at night.

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. Dolly Parton