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Scribblings: Week 15

Feb 8, 2015

130648_Ct99wgRB_j-n01u-opT-rbas5t8ryuH0O-eDH2PZ5xYMy walks through Eden, the transcendent little park across the street from my apartment, are normally in wide loops around a lagoon. But, today, as I was moseying along, thinking about doors, of all things – why some slam shut and others open, if only a crack – a barricade of yellow tape and I came within an inch of colliding.

“Another closed door,” I thought grumpily.

Granted, the closed section of pavement before me may have sported fissures the size of canals, but I love my loops.  My “widening circles,” as I have come to call them (Thank you, Rainer Maria Rilke).  I live my life in widening semicircles? Not quite the same ring to it.

But it was too idyllic a day to waste  – clear skies, warm air, sweet breezes, with birds singing, ducks splashing and fountains flowing as the leafless branches of the trees were cast silver in the late afternoon light. Eight semi-loops rather than 4 full ones would work just fine.

I had doubled back and taken, oh, maybe five steps when I got the oddest feeling….Something was off.

It was as I passed the second fountain and started heading uphill rather than down that I realized what was going on. I was walking ‘backwards.’ A route that had become as comfortable and well worn as my favorite PJs had abruptly turned inside out on me. Of course things felt weird.

 

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Yet, at the same time, I was paying more attention to my surroundings than I had in weeks. I was looking. I was aware. Courtesy of Lincoln Property Management, a new door into a freshened, alternative Eden had opened. If, before, I had cast myself as Alice in a wonderland, I had now stepped through the looking glass, with my walk mirroring my life as a soon-to-be-divorced person. I still missed my former route—that was only natural – but there were beauties and benefits aplenty, too, along this new one back to the beginning.

Again Rilke says it best: Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking finishes often at the start and, in ending, begins.

Circles are life. Circles are magic. Eden, barring the occasional construction crew, is nothing but circles. Therefore Eden is magic.

And, while it often is no walk in the park, so is life.

Since childhood, I have been intrigued by the conceit of escaping what is routine, normal, known and expected. Of embarking upon an adventure someplace sparkling and ‘not here,’ whether it is down a rabbit hole, over the rainbow, at the back of a wardrobe, in a Hobbit shire, or via Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station. As Harry Potter shows us, all the wizardry that is needed to lead a transformed life is a willingness to keep running, not flinch, and trust in the magic. Trust that there is indeed a door in that solid wall of brick.

 

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Sometimes the brick wall is me. For instance, on so many levels, much as I whine about it, I would far prefer not knowing anyone here in my new city than to thrust myself into a room full of strangers.  (Yes, I’m shy. Do you think I could reveal this stuff in person?) “It’s show time!” I’ll remind myself. Then into the room I’ll sail in all my most fraudulent extroverted glory.

Earlier this week, I staged an encore performance. A Facebook acquaintance invited me to a poetry reading sponsored by an organization called The Writer’s Garret. Poetry! Writers! Readers! All congregating at a place called the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. The thing screamed me.

The magic began the instant I found the correct address. (A story for another Scribblings.) There before my eyes was a bona fide Craftsman bungalow. Yes, a Craftsman bungalow that could have been—accio!—swept off Routh Street in Dallas and plunked down on Grand Avenue in Pasadena with no one the wiser. I was in Pasadena! Pasadena in Dallas!

Yet, as the magic house on Routh Street revealed, California has been with me all along. I just didn’t see it. There had even been signs, lots of signs, but I simply hadn’t been aware.

The first sign popped up at the checkout register at Sprouts. In honor of the upcoming holiday season, I was impulse buying a bag of gingersnap-flavored popcorn.

“Is it any good?” I asked the checker.

“Oh, honey!” she oohed…and it turned out that, for all we were in Healthy Eating Central, she was as unrepentant a sugar glutton as I am. It also turned out that she was originally from L.A.

I didn’t think much of this at the time, other than to feel kind of warm and fuzzy and grateful over a chance encounter with a fellow Californian. But a hair or two on the back of my neck did lift a week later, as I chatted with a saleslady at Pier One.

“You’re from California?” I echoed. “So was the checker at Sprouts.”

By the time I opened an email from the leader of a divorce support group I was considering joining, every hair on my head stood straight up. (No mean feat when your hair has kinks to rival a Slinky’s.) “I’m originally from Manhattan Beach,” the leader confided.

I had calmed down some by Thanksgiving in Austin. Let’s get real—Californians have been relocating to Texas in droves for years. But, then, I bought a cutting board. And not just any cutting board. This one was shaped like the state of Texas.

 

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“I’m embracing my inner Texan,” I explained to the owner of the shop. “I’ve only just moved here.”

“Oh?” he asked politely. “Where are you from?”

“L.A.”

“Where in L.A.?”

“You know L.A.?”

“Very well. I lived in La Crescenta for over 20 years.

“No effing way,” I breathed. La Crescenta is 9 miles from Pasadena and 2.9 miles from La Canada Flintridge, where my husband and I raised our children for over 14 years.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But since then, in little over a month, I have stood in line at the pharmacy and learned that the lovely elderly woman behind me was from L.A.…had a long, bittersweet chat about what-we-miss-about-California with the young man checking me out at Trader Joes, who had trained at MY Trader Joes in Pasadena…and met a gentleman at a lamp store.

His shop didn’t have the harp I needed, but he knew a place that did.

“Where’s Carrollton?” I asked. I explained that I was new and still learning my way around.

“Oh, you’ll find your way in no time,” the clerk assured me.

“Easy for you to say,” I replied. There are no mountains in Dallas to steer by.

The man smiled. “Actually, I’m new myself. I lived somewhere else for fifty years.”

By now I knew the answer before asking the question.

“L.A.,” he told me anyway.

All but one of these exchanges took place in a shop—did you notice that? And what, ultimately, have I been shopping for? Not popcorn, not ornaments, not a cutting board, not drugs, not apples and an orchid, not a harp…but connection. I seek connection. While I don’t want my connection with my old life and loves in California to end, I am more impatient than is good for me for my connection with my new life to begin.

Yet even more than I crave connection, I crave magic and I crave beauty—whether it is in a park or on a page. So, truly, what better place is there for my lives past, present and future to converge and flow into one another than where they have? Sparked by a poetry reading in a city whose name means both “wise” and “waterfall.”

Don’t grieve, Rumi reminds us. Anything you lose comes round in another form.

 

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Copyright © “Scribblings: Week 15” by Jenine Baines, 2015

Photo, brick wall: Tomas Castelazo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo, bottom, waterfall: Pioneer Park, Dallas, Texas

~~~

Find more of Jenine’s poems, writings, and musings at MichaelWhoKnew.com.

Read more of Jenine’s works in “Write Here”:
Scribblings: Week 14
Scribblings: Week 13
The Rabbit in the Moon
Sorrow Tree
The Deflowering of Silence
The Morning the Egg ExplodedToo Beautiful
May I Have This Last Dance, Mr. Banana Nose?
Into the Bay Forever
No Two Blades of Grass
How Long Is Never?
Golf Course




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