Summer Grit

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We had one of those torrential Pennsylvania thunderstorms today. The ones that spill a thick sheet of rain over the porch awning for several minutes at a time. You could wash your hair in it, or strip the new paint from your house with it. The sky gets scary. Tornado scary. It goes from white to orange to green and then black. The wind blows things around the backyard. Branches crack like old bones and litter the street. And the street becomes a river too high for cars to pass. The smell of ozone permeates the open windows and slips between the screen doors, bleaching out all the stale motionless heat of summer. There’s an excitement in the air. Will this get worse? Get better? Don’t go away, storm. Not just yet. We don’t know what you’re here to do. And then it’s gone. Just like that. When these storms come and go, like the trains that scream over the railroad tracks, this is grit. Not Northeastern grit or Pittsburgh/Philly grit, but Nature’s grit. It’s stronger than curses and violence. It mows over these things, scattering the evidence of humans like ants. Grit smells of soaked pine trees and the soft new skin of snapped birch tree limbs. It produces winds so hard that the atmosphere is pushed as low as the sugar maples and fills all the living rooms for a 40 mile radius.

When these come, I think the world must need a cleansing. Somehow Nature knows. Collectively, it knows when humans have made a mess of things again and it’s getting ugly and heaven can’t stand the smell of us. Something good is about to happen in the wake of the rushing street floods and the loose farmhouse tiles. Take heart, the Earth has spoken.

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The Work of Ghosts

I have a new poem in The Feminine Collective today. If you’ve never discovered FC, you’re missing out. It’s a fantastically talented collection of female writers, poets, essayists, photographers, journalists, etc…You simply MUST check then out! Go here. It will make your Monday far more interesting.

Do You Miss LA?

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Downtown LA

(Fan Pop)

To answer the question I’ve been asked three times this week, “Do you miss LA?” No. I miss California in the winter, but I never miss LA. It’s a wonderful place to be from and to be at, but I don’t miss it. Also, I was from Ventura Country. That’s not exactly LA. It’s southern California 100%, but not LA. Any Angeleno will confirm this immediately and loudly if you ask.

What I do miss is the South. I miss Texas sometimes, Tennessee, and Georgia. Places where my people are from. No one related to me is from LA. I don’t miss Oklahoma, but I think on it with affection, my birth state. I remember its red dirt and its wide open spaces, and all the Indian names. Chickasaw, Okemah, Broken Arrow, Ten Killer Lake. While California wins with exotic Spanish saint names, and  I don’t have any difficult feelings associated with southern California, I just don’t miss it.

I miss Napa and the Ventura foothills on occasion. I miss Santa Barbara and even Santa Paula, with all its dusty orchards and winding mountain roads leading to Ojai. I don’t miss Ojai. That place was weird in a Salem, Massachusetts sort of way, and all the “gift stores” smelled like spiced pot and French soap. I miss driving past the ranches of Santa Ynez and Santa Maria. I even miss Oxnard strawberry fields and careless afternoons watching pretend surfers wrangle the baby waves at Silver Strand. Don’t miss Long Beach (who does?) or Anaheim or Westlake (again, why?).

I have good, messy childhood memories of Thousand Oaks, though, when kids from southern California still played in roving bands that ran around the cul-de-sac barefooted on the their bikes. I don’t know if Thousand Oaks is still like that, but my memories of it are that way, and I think of the summer and fall I spent there, before we moved to Oxnard, as lovely. Dirty and sunburnt and lovely.

I don’t miss any of the freeways or Hollywood or any of that. But, God help me, Pennsylvania winters make me want to puke, and nothing in California ever made me feel that way. Except North Hollywood and Tarzana. Those can be a puke-worthy place. So, if LA became its own country, I’d be fine with that. If I never drive on another LA freeway, I’d be fine with that. If I never saw another sunset over the Pacific, I’d be sad. There’s nothing else like it. But I’ve settled here in the Appalachian foothills and they’re fine, too. If I wasn’t literally allergic to the cold, I would die in this Ugly Old Farmhouse as an old lady, with a book in my hand and a dog at my feet.

I plan to move South as my children age. I need the sunshine and the warmth. I break out in anaphylaxis when it gets below 40 degrees. When it gets below 50, really. I blame all of that on my Southern birth and my southern California upbringing. The sunshine raised me. The dry desert air and the subtropic humidity of the low plain states. I just can’t handle the pressed-down molecules of winter in Pennsylvania anymore. Still, even the possibility of dying because I ran outside to get the mail and I didn’t wear enough wool, doesn’t make LA tempting to me. California, yes. LA, no. So, to answer your question, those who’ve asked. I don’t miss LA. I miss year round sunshine though. But when Pennsylvania gets over her obsession with freezing rain and blizzards and lets the spring break through, this is the view from my living room window. It’s almost like Bougainvillea, right?

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My Pennsylvania Dogwood Tree

(courtesy me, Tiffani Burnett-Velez)

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