Saturday, March 31, 2012

mexico, again

I went to Mexico again last week for a very short trip to visit my grandmother at the ranch. Some pictures from my trip, a few thoughts.

The road on the way from Caimanero to La Pedgregosa.

Green lighting in a palm-thatched hut.

Fresh grilled fish at Caimanero.

Remnants of breakfast my first day at the ranch.

La Pedregosa in the morning.

The oldest man in town, 93. He gave me this love advice: Forgive your husband if he cheats on you because it is the nature of man. He and his wife live in seperate houses and don't speak to each other, but she still serves him every meal. He's blind. He has a sharp memory and sang to us a song my great-grandmother used to sing while hanging her laundry.

Snacks at the pig fry.

Breakfast in the pan.

Pig fry, the neighbors come to buy carnitas. My great-uncle kills a pig every Saturday and cooks it outside. People show up from other villages to buy his meat.

Fresh oysters at Caimanero. I'l never forget my cousin and I having an oyster eating competition 2 years ago. I love Sinaloa but don't like loud music and there is loud music everywhere. After eating these I went and sat on the beach alone for an hour.

The oyster stand.

Cat nap. Two kittens asleep in a chair. Superstition says if you take a cat's picture, that cat will die. Of course, my great-uncle didn't tell me that until after I'd taken a dozen pictures of the kitties.

Statue in honor of the mother, Rosario, Sinaloa.

Outdoor sink.

The cactus fell in love with the tree.

Fresh meat, outdoor fire.

Feeding the cows.

Getting the head to soften enough.

Cow feed, use every part of the plant.

Our Lady of the Roof Tiles.

Uncles planting a mango tree in my grandmother's yard.

Holy water.

Good fences.


My favorite picture. A man I know hasn't been home in ten years, he's undocumented. I went to visit his mother in a small town. She hung his hat over the front door and won't take it down until he comes home.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

the years they gnaw

I was having a conversation with B and the Easter earthquake from a couple of years ago came up. In my head I imagined the earthquake was much, much longer ago. Two years ago. Looking back two years at who I was then I felt kind of weird. I told B that I feel my soul has aged tremendously in the last two years. I don't feel like the same person I was. I gave away so much good, so much love, so much kindness; I feel drained of it and selfish with what I have left. I hope that all that shit, trust and the rest, grows back.

My days are filling up. I have a couple of readings in April, I'll post more info as they get closer. I have every weekend pretty much planned or visitors/events. May will be nuts before my sister's wedding. And then New Mexico. After that who knows? I feel like I don't get excited for very much anymore.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

the painters with strangely shaped feet

This last week or ten days, I feel as if I've been slogging through the dead marshes from Lord of the Rings. I was eagerly looking forward to getting out of town this weekend, going to the Sea of Cortez and opening up, letting go, but weather had a different plan for me. I had a dream last night that bulldozed me, sucker-punched my heart and this morning I want to kick in the teeth of my subconscious.

Today would have been my grandfather Herbie's 81st birthday. He passed way nine years ago. He was my mother's father.

My grandfather was an immigrant from Puerto Rico, he moved to New York in 1950, sending for my grandmother, his childhood sweetheart, shortly thereafter. They married and struggled through the shit that it was to be poor and Puerto Rican in the 1950s. My grandmother moved back to the island for a time then returned to the city. My grandfather was an alcoholic, albeit a functioning alcoholic. My mom moved to San Diego in 1975 with my father.

The day I was born my mother called my grandfather in NY to tell him he had a granddaughter who looked exactly like him. He went out and got shitfaced drunk. When he sobered up he realized that he didn't want to be the drunk grandfather, that he wanted to see me grow up. My birth prompted him to stop thirty years of drinking, cold turkey. He always said I saved his life. Maybe that's where my ridiculous and stupid savior complex comes from.

I was seven months old when we met. There are great pictures of this day. My parents took me to the airport and when he got off the plane, even though I had never seen him before in my life I put my arms out to him and he grabbed me and we hugged.

All through my childhood my grandfather, 'Ampa, as called him, was my best friend. We were so alike, solitary, contemplative. We used to sit together in the backyard for hours, looking at plants and not talking. He would drive me to the library every day after school and fall asleep in the children s section, snoring on the small orange sofas as I lost myself in the stacks. No one ever loved me the way he did. His advice to me was always the same: Don't give a shit about what people think about you. He painted wrought iron for a living and always told me how wonderful it was to work alone, for yourself. I have followed in his footsteps, though I've taken the work to a different level of artistic mastery.

Losing him was hard. The day he died I went to the hospital with my grandmother. He was not conscious, struggling in his sleep, shaking. I helped my grandmother take out his false teeth. I lay down beside him on the hospital bed and I sang to him. I barely remember what I sang but I remember touching his face, kissing him, telling him that he could go if he wanted to. When I was singing he calmed down. My mom and aunt arrived and I left. They tell me he died as soon as I left the room. My grandmother has always told me that my singing to him was the best gift I gave him. I've always had peace about his death, I gave him my permission. I knew he was suffering and that he hated having to depend on others. I would have wanted to go too.

We took his body to Puerto Rico to bury him. Comedic circumstances surrounded his funeral, a story I hope to publish one day. I remember sitting on the porch in the late September stink of heat, humidity and island decay; I was crocheting. My grief wasn't the hard grief of everyone else in my family, I was at peace with his passing. But I remember thinking no one will ever love me like that again. Even if he was family, he was a soul mate. No one ever knew me the way he did because we were so alike, from our ears and prominent noses to the strange shape of our feet. Our desire to self sufficiency.

I miss him. He taught me to drink coffee. I was a baby and he would fill a mug with milk and out in a splash of coffee. The older I got there was less milk and more coffee. The day after his funeral I left everything. I took a backpack and a one way ticket to Mexico City and began the great adventure that everything else in my life has stemmed from. When I got to the airport in my Mexico City I was terrified, worried I was making the wrong decision. Then a mariachi band in front of me began playing 'Ampa's favorite song and I went on with the adventure.

Happy birthday Viejito. Te quiero y extra├▒o every single day.

(stupid stupid video for a great song.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

my own horse

I've written very few poems over the last months. One of the poems has a line that has been running through my head: My horse was brave enough because I was my own horse. Yesterday a friend working through challenges, a friend I've been consoling, sent me a message telling me I was the light he turned to in his struggle. I was flattered, honored, glad that I can share any accumulated wisdom with people I care about. But it set my thinking wheels to spinning.

I've been wondering if in my way of living self-sufficiently I've sacrificed a certain vulnerability for strength, my desire to live a certain way and not compromise. I'm not interested in the ideas or things that are supposed to interest me; husband, kids, nice house, clothing, jewelry, status symbols and signifiers of a life allegedly well-lived. Blah blah blah. I don't know that in recent memory, more than a decade, I have had anyone I could turn to and say You are my light. I haven't even had anyone to come home to, to feel that very human desire of being taken care of. It has been my choice, mostly. I choose to be the strong one. I turn to self. I let myself be vulnerable only in my writing. I am my own horse. It is mostly satisfying but weeks like this week it is also exhausting. I wouldn't mind being the passenger occasionally.

I had a dream yesterday wherein the father of someone I used to respect was begging me to forgive his son, asking me to hold out hope for a future. I turned away from him; instead of answering I slaughtered pigs. I've had some rage lately. In one of my favorite books, Lirael, part of the Abhorsen Trilogy, the main character, Lirael can cast spells. One day she casts a spell that is too strong for her. The process knocks her out and her throat is burned from the words she spoke. I feel my own throat is burned.

Work is busy. So busy that I'm having a difficult time keeping up with my writing the way I want to except for my daily journaling. I love seeing journals fills up. My body is tired but I enjoy the appreciate the ache from physical labor. I enjoy coming home and standing at the sink for ten minutes, working the pumice through the webs of my fingers, digging the black paint out of my pores, scalding myself on the hot water. Not that the adage means anything to me, but these hands are way too busy to be the devil's playground.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I went to see Saul Williams last night. He is quite a performer, another level. He has so much energy and gives everything. Pretty awesome to watch and experience. It was almost as if he was ecstatic, the religious fervor.

I enjoyed the show and was happy to be there but I am completely unused to being around that many people and staying out late. This morning I'm tired in an odd way. My limbs are a little weak, a physical ache. I don't like crowds. It isn't that I'm uncomfortable or insecure, but I like a buffer of space around me. I don't like small talk. I don't like drunk people. I enjoy my personal space, my psychic space. I spent much of the night by my baby sister, I kept putting my arm around her as if she were an anchor. I love having sisters who are my friends.

The weather has been gorgeous and warm, sunny. I've been lucky enough to be working these last couple of weeks in La Jolla, the Pacific Ocean in front of me daily. I am truly grateful for my line of work and the solitude it allows me. I spend my days painting in silence, listening to audiobooks or music. I get to watch birds, insects. I come home smelling like sweat, and this week, rosemary, as I've been trampling through a patch to get to what I need to paint.

Even though at times it is exhausting, I truly love physical work. Our bodies are meant to work. We've lost so much of that these days with easy living. My generation, at least in my family, is the first that has the option not to work with the body. I wonder if there is such a thing as cellular genetic memory that craves physical work, since for generations we have been workers. I remember my ex-love was very unsatisfied, always always and I am sure he still is. He never did anything with his body. Then he worked for a my dad for a little while; painting, sanding, sweating. Those days he worked he was tired but there was a calm to him was unfamiliar and welcome. Movement, sweat, purpose are a part of living a good life.

Looking forward to spending my days in the sunshine.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

trading up

I was looking through my poetry manuscript. As I've mentioned before, I feel sliced open in the pages. It isn't perfect, the poems aren't perfect but they are honest. Maybe at times too honest. I've never written for anyone else, nor have a tried to. I am not a "educated" poet or writer in the traditional sense. I didn't finish school, nor have I had any interest in going back. My writing is mine, imperfect as it sometimes is.

As I was going through the manuscript I saw that it really is a testament to my twenties. All of my heartbreak and growth, travel, exploration of self and psyche are in those pages. Some of it makes me blush, or even cringe a little. But it was who I was at the time. A lot of it isn't auto-biographical even thought it feels that way. I tried writing in persona a lot. Anyway. I'm pretty fascinated by it.

Sometimes I worry I'm becoming a bit of a hermit or bow too often to my solitarian self. I find myself less and less satisfied with social interaction. I'm bored easily by most conversation. When I'm out interacting with others I feel I'm letting myself waste away the hours I could be writing or contemplating. Or maybe I need new friends. I have good, solid friends but they are adults in their lives; they're parents, in partnerships, chasing their own dreams. Or I can just continue loving my solitude. The thing is, when I do interact socially I feel like an alien from another planet. Not that I'm uncomfortable but I live a life very much of my own making and I have little in common with others.

I saw my face in direct sunlight recently and saw for the first time that I am aging. I love it. I love the lines and defined muscles from a lifetime of smiling, emoting. I'm rather skinny these days so the lack of fat in my face exposes the edges, the bones and way skin is stretched across them. I have this interesting bone in my forehead that is a Huerta trait. I never really noticed it until I was in Mexico at the ranch and a half-aunt pitied me for it. Ah, you have that Huerta forehead, what a shame. There is a defined ridge where my brow bone meets my skull. It is subtle but now that I know about it I see it every day. The Huerta forehead. I kind of love my Huerta forehead.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

so much

I've had the strangest, most wonderful few days, with a little worry mixed in. Work is busy. My creative life is alive, kicking.

I have an Einstein quote on the wall in front of my writing desk that I completely agree with. The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.

I've had a few good reminders of what matters. I was talking to my dad this morning and told him that I love when reminders come That all of the hours, the lifetime of work I have put in to my creative endeavors begins to pay off. Little road signs that I'm on the right track.

I was also thinking the terror that accompanies even imagined success. I was looking over some work that is important to me and I saw myself sliced open in the pages. But a friend reminded me that it is vulnerability that makes great art. Okay. But still, terror. I wrote a friend in an email last year that terror is the beginning of joy, Rilke inspired. Or that joy is the beginning on terror. Shadow, light, same same.

So joy, forthwith. Or something. Sometimes you have to just let go, go with the mystery. Aack.

The birthday cd I was given has some great music on it. Can't stop listening.

Monday, March 5, 2012

morning with windows open

I woke up early this morning, before sunrise. I came to my office and watched the sun rise, as much as I could from this window.The birds were in a singing frenzy. There is a mockingbird who mimics what I swear must be a video game, her song is bullets: pew pew pew pew! The the crows start showing up from where they roost in the south, they drown out other birdsong as they fly by. I love when they land close and I hear the sound of their wings, like old, dry paper rustling.

I've been 33 a week and a couple of days, so far so good. My love letters prompted many beautiful responses from friends, even though that wasn't my intention. It was a nice surprise to get in return. I spent my birthday evening with my sisters. I'm not really drinking these days so the birthday shots we took destroyed me for the day after. My dad calls it the Curse of the Huertas, after a certain age we can't handle alcohol. I'm rather grateful for the curse. I prefer my mind clear, my actions intentional.

The weekend was beautiful. I spent Saturday working at a beach-front house and yesterday Beau and I spent the afternoon at the beach. I saw dolphins playing in the water both days. Yesterday the dolphins swam back and forth in front of our spot on the beach. They must have had good fishing there.

One of my birthday gifts was music. 18 beautiful songs of story and heartbreak, a tiny bit of optimism thrown in. The accompanying letter was beautiful and sad, I've saved it in the pages of my favorite book of poetry.

I have so much writing to do, deadlines, and promises I've made to myself that must be kept. If there is anything about me that has changed in the last years it is my ability to commit. I am one dedicated woman when I make up my mind to be. The novel is my biggest priority these days, as well as keeping my life as simple as I can. I really do love how simple my life is. I love my long hours and days of solitude. I love the silence.

Contemplating doing Poem-A-Day next month, I did it a couple of years ago and came out with some good poems. But another part of me wants to focus on the novel. I only have so much creative drive. Oooh, maybe all of my poems will be about the novel, or the mythology of the world it is set in! Or written from the perspective of the characters. Something to consider.