Cacti and clouds


I’ve run away from home again in the name of love. Book love.

Sometimes this writer needs to stop using her wife voice, mother voice, daughter voice, sister voice, auntie voice, professor voice, neighbor voice to recall the voice that sounds most like her inner soul. Her writing voice.

There was a red suitcase involved, a bag of books heavier than a week’s worth of groceries, my cappuccino maker, and a short to-do list.

  • Write the last poem of THE BOOK.
  • Finalize order of poems in THE BOOK. (Yes, this contradicts Item #1.)
  • Edit all poems in THE BOOK.

On Monday, the list felt an awful lot like this:

Western Prickly Pear

The weird thing is, I chose this week, right in the middle of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference, the single largest gathering of writers in North America.  More than ten thousand writers and editors traveled to Boston. I stayed in California.  I haven’t missed a conference in five years. And yet I desperately needed to be alone and write more than I needed to schmooze and buy books and be inspired by what other writers were doing.  I couldn’t afford both a writer’s retreat and to put myself up in Boston, so I chose me.  Alone.

As the week winds down, THE BOOK has been tamed back down to all lower case letters.  Needles have been plucked, rough edges smoothed.

The new perspective comes by paying attention to the Backyard Sisters theme for March: contrast.

low tide rocks

Home. Not home.
Clay. Sand.
Dust. Water.
Omnipresent trail. Tidal path.
Warm toes. Cold bed.

Narrative moves forward, I tell my students, when that which is bumps up against that which is not. The best poetry happens, says poet Amy Newlove Schroeder, when there’s “a yoking together of the concrete and the abstract,” like “blending the perfect martini.”  Last year I had the pleasure of hearing Amy give a poetry talk titled “Concrete Abstraction” at Chapman University.  She urged poets to consider how all language is representational and the most “successful” poetry is that which can translate an experience, an idea, an aloneness, “from the tangible to the real.”  It’s how we don’t die of loneliness, Schroeder suggests.

If you’d like your own university classroom experience, you can view her talk here.  And if you’re anywhere near Orange County, you can catch her at Literary Orange, Sat. April 6, 2013, at the Irvine Marriott, a hotel. Not home.

Leaving. Returning.
Watching the sky. Waiting for tomorrow.
Missing you. Knowing I will miss this.
clouds and oceanWith a skip in her step,


The Lines in the Sand

With leading lines on my mind, I recently headed down to the beach. Standing at the top of the ramp looking down, I found my first photo. The lines of the ramp were beckoning me to follow them down to the many possibilities waiting below; surfing, swimming, bike riding, walking, running or beach-combing – not this morning, it’s photography I chose this morning.

DSC_0315beach lines

Stopping to take note and looking around I see the lines are everywhere; from the tire tracks left by lifeguard trucks,

DSC_0311beach linesto the footprints left by people and birds,

DSC_0237beach lines

to   the line created by the foam of the waves rolling up to the shore,

DSC_0241beaach linesto the waves combined with footprints.

DSC_0244beach linesEverywhere I look I see lines. The jetty jutting out from the shore as if daring me to incorporate it into a photo and I must comply.

DSC_0264beach linesI got lucky because there was a pod of dolphins playing right off the jetty this morning. I had to thank it for taunting me and capturing my attention, I may have missed those dolphins if I hadn’t.

DSC_0297beach linesIt’s always thrilling to me to see the dolphins so close to shore frolicking in the surf but I can’t forget the people out and about as well.

DSC_0309beach linesThis line of cut telephone poles caught my eye too, there was no stopping me.

DSC_0262beach linesIn the mornings, these stairs are a well-used exercise spot usually filled with climbers taking on the “stairs to fitness” but this evening they are much quieter – but still as high. I especially like the shadows of the rails at this time of day and how they multiply the leading line effect.

DSC_0253beach linesLooking for leading lines has become a game and a bit of an obsession to me now. This coming week you can find me still looking for the lines but in a different location.

Until next week. . .


The Dog Days are Upon Us

With summer winding down but heating up here in California, one’s thoughts may turn to cooling off. Around here, the place to beat the heat is at the shore.  Manhattan Beach was the destination this day, for me and a few others.

summer day Manhattan BeachMy wide angle lens will often create a vignette effect when at its widest and sometimes I choose to just go with it. I like the feeling of being the observer through a telescope it imparts.

summer day Manhattan Beach pierAt the end of the Manhattan Beach pier is a small aquarium and cafe, which are worth the trip out; if the prospect of the view isn’t enough to entice you on its own. This day, there was an interview being filmed alongside  the usual sunbathers and swimmers.

summer day Manhattan Beach

The view looking back at the beach from the pier.

Manhattan Beach, CA

The evening at the beach is a lovely time to enjoy the cool breezes and sunsets.

Hermosa Beach pierThe Hermosa Beach pier is often frequented by fishermen.

Hermosa Beach pier sunset

Piers are intriguing subjects in my opinion. The symmetry of the pilings and the silhouettes of the figures capture my imagination. Whether viewed from close up or further away I am drawn to these structures suspended over water.

Hermoa Beach pier sunset

The perfect ending to a summer day. . .

sunset Hermosa Beach, CAEnjoy these last few days of summer and try to keep cool out there.

~ Sue