Baja Wordsmiths ~ February 23, 2017

The back patio at La Estancia Restaurant in Rosarito holds birdsong and sunshade umbrellas, a fountain waterfall telling its stories in waterspeak as it finds the narrow pool below, and seven writers gathered at a table to sharpen their verbs and polish nouns.

Robbie presents the exercise we will undertake which includes four categories (People, Places, Things, Themes). The task of listing four items after/under/within/whatever each of those categories is ours individually. Once we’ve given the initial four their four items, the neighboring writer to the left (without knowing what items we’ve listed in the various categories) chooses two of the categories. Our objective: Find new ways to connect old things.

Ready. Set. Write!

We have ten minutes.

My lists run thusly:

PEOPLE: Maya Angelou, Elsie Ivy, Mama, Friend
PLACES: Todi, Italy; Mira Loma; Pub; Casa
THINGS: Weeds; Books; Clothes; Hearts
THEMES: Angst; Loneliness; Confidence; Strength

Jen, the writer on my left,  chooses Places and Themes as the two categories from which I then select Todi, Italy and Strength as the items I will connect. This is what I wrote:

FOR SIX WEEKS after my return from Italy, I cried. Not all the time; not uncontrollably; and, often, not visibly. The thing is, just because mascara doesn’t run, dancing charcoal rivers down cheeks, doesn’t mean the heart isn’t sick.

I was heartsick for the small hill town with its thick Roman walls and crenelated roofs where I (and six other retired women) had spent four weeks. All liberals, all democrats, we were sorely disappointed and angry when — on Italian TV — President Clinton announced he “did not have sex with that woman.”

Not one among the seven of us gathered wanted to hear our President lie. But this is an aside meant to inform of the era when I was there — in Todi, Italy.

After my return to the states, I was homesick and heartsick because of the ease among people in Todi, the Italian hill town. Every evening people met in the piazza, strolled arm in arm, young with old, men with men, women with women, boys with boys, while children raced around and between them, hid in shadowy alcoves and jumped out to tag another among them.

The Italians of Todi had the strength of thick Roman walls surrounding their town, the strength of centuries of knowing skin-touching-skin meant nothing more than human contact.

At home in rural America, skin touching skin happened infrequently and seldom in public. Boys walking arm in arm or leaned into each other on a bench in a public park would be (or could be) attacked, bullied, vilified.

Writing this, coming to terms with the “then” and the “now,” I am crying. No tears on the outside, but oh the ache, the pinch in my heart, the bruise of knowledge … of how we are.

And, how we could be (what to call it?) a little more Todi-an.


I’ve made a few edits to the final two paragraphs above 1.) for clarity’s sake; and 2.) because I couldn’t read my handwriting.

The thing is, I can still hear the birdsong surrounding us on the back patio of La Estancia today; I can still hear the water tumbling hard into the pool near us; I can still hear the words other writers shared at our table, and I want to say Thank you to those who made it happen.

Thank you, each and all!



Letters from Al, 1966-67 ~ February 22, 2017

Dear Alsie,

The box of your letters home from ‘Nam sits on the closet floor between storage boxes of yarn on the right and oil painting materials on the left. Remember your tackle box, the mustard gold one with double stacked trays where you kept fishing lures, worm threaders, nail clippers — the essentials of casting and catching? That box holds tubes of oil paint, has done for these 28 years (29 in November) since that damned blood clot dropped you.

I kept that box of letters at the foot of the bed for several months after I stopped writing to you, telling myself I would continue, I would complete the project I’d set for myself, I would answer them all — from the now — from these decades of what was once our future. On some level, I wanted to prove you wrong. I wanted to show you I could go the distance, not leave a work short of what it could be. You were, to my way of thinking, absolutely on the money 90% of the time. And I appreciated your honesty. (So easy to write — but did I?) (Being the ghost that you are, you’ve probably noted the long pause before the words began spilling again.)

Here’s the thing: This letter is not in response to one of yours. This letter is to share the news with you that one of my efforts has been published. This letter is to let you know that a publisher believed I had gone the distance, not left the work short.

I’m full of misgivings. Can’t stop wondering what you would think, what you would say. I did so love your straightforward, pragmatic, left brain way of looking at things — so opposite from me. I miss you, you lovely, lovely man.

Ok. So after another longish pause and getting my eyes dry and refocusing, what do I hear? I hear you doing your Donald Duck impression, spraying my misgivings with saliva, making me smile.


p.s. The True Life Adventures of Irene in White Tights is the name of the book, published by Waterstreet Press. I add this just in case the afterlife has a library.

Whales & Bricks Revisited

December 31, 2015. On this last day of the year, I find an email from WordPress with stats on this site (lynn doiron writes) and follow a link to the most popular post, which, if the WP stats are to be believed, was visited 57 times! Fifty-seven is a grand number for this infrequent blogger. I re-read the entry.

Not bad. Not Pulitzer or Nobel Prize worthy, but acceptable. Whales & Bricks captured a mood, a need to trust, and a resolution (of sorts) to do so.  After all, I’d made right choices before–and wrong ones.

I’d been in the midst of doing one or the other again on the date of that most popular post, of disassembling what I had in favor of reassembling elsewhere. Between here and there, emptying cupboards and closets into cardboard boxes, finding the odd lost sock or misplaced earring during this shake-down of my home, I’d been making choices, depositing unwanted yet still usable items at the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) Thrift Store in Rosarito, removing photos of my family–children and grandchildren–from their magnet-held stations on the refrigerator doors, and assiduously  ignoring my garden: the yucca starts Jennifer had brought me from hers, the palm trees Fernando had planted, the hibiscus Jo Ann gifted my first year in Baja–all the lovely beginnings from these friends and others that had thrived and grown tall. To work among them was somehow the worst of the worst during those days of disassembling. Why? They were rooted. I wasn’t.

In the end, the actual moving of all those boxes from one house to another never took place. I was dissuaded. And remain thankful for the intervention of friends.

On this last day of 2015, looking back on the chaos of March, I was, perhaps, a little bit like the baby whale mentioned in the earlier post. The difference, one difference at any rate, is that the baby, held aloft by its mother to view strangers afloat in a boat, knew enough not to want a home where it couldn’t survive … whereas I, blind-sided by something akin to love, was, for a time, willing to make the leap.

I glance up from these words, survey this room where a few cardboard boxes remain packed with non-essentials from then. One of these days I’ll get to them. One of these days all the “bricks” of 2015 will stack themselves into usable order. For the moment, it’s enough having them here in the room where I write, knowing the garden continues beyond the sliding glass door and will know my trowel and feel the snip of my clippers in the coming new year.


p.s. It’s taken the length of this write to realize those “57” views were predominantly mine. Is my little bubble of pride burst? Yes, dammit!


750words Feb 2 2015 ~ The Chipmunk Dance

The chipmunk dance was first introduced at a ceremony celebrating the arrival of the new moon, that tiny crescent of light tilted in the night sky like a fragile scoop honed from honeyed sunshine and hung high on the wall of el noche.

Man noted the slim elegance of this moon’s presence above the horizon and coincidentally movements of a furred animal with thin stripes of white running parallel over its shoulders and along its spine. Man was happy under the moon and over the chipmunk because, indeed, he was over the chipmunk as his shadow–thrown from the light of leaping flames unfurling toward dark heaven–flooded and pooled about the equally happy creature. Thus, Man identified the shape of the shadow as the shape of himself and movements of the chipmunk as the movements within himself as if he, himself, were the shadow and the chipmunk was, indeed, within Man’s self.

And so it was that Man began to dance, incorporating the pawed chipmunk’s movements, twitching and switching directions within the shadow and within the man, both chipmunk and man looking skyward from time to time and finding the tiny crescent of moon tilted above them. Crickets, cicadas, whipporwills, owls, loons and mammoths provided the rhythm of night’s music while the chipmunk danced within Man’s shadow and Man gyrated within the slim moon’s light.

As the moon gradually crossed the starlit sky, Woman appeared. She was as natural to the landscape as the grass, yet Man had never before seen her (or any woman for that matter) and he lost a few beats of the rhythm, and stumbled forward into his shadow very nearly stepping on the chipmunk. To step on the chipmunk would’ve been like stepping on his own heart because, by then, chipmunk and Man were integrated into one, or at least they believed they were, and we all know how the beliefs of Man are sacrosanct (not certain what sacrosanct means exactly but it seems to the author to fit in this line and so she will leave it there for the moment).

When Man nearly stepped on the chipmunk, a small gasp escaped from Woman’s lips and Man noticed her mouth and how the slip of light from the fragile scoop of the moon seemed to make her lips glisten with dew and how her eyes seemed lit from within with tiny fires of broken blue, the blue broken by wheat-colored gold and new-hay green and the tiniest petals of lilac blooms–and he stumbled anew–and not just because of Woman’s eyes.

Something inexplicable was happening and he knew not how to control it–even if he had wanted to control it–which he didn’t. His shadow was growing. And within his shadow, the chipmunk (who, meanwhile, had continued with a frenzied chipmunk dance while dodging Man’s awkward footing and dangerous sways) was growing within Man’s shadow.

Woman made note of these alterations to Man, Man’s Shadow, the small furry creature who danced in Man’s shadow. She moistened her lips. She was a healer. She could help Man. And she did.

She embraced and nurtured him through the phases of the moon, from new and crescent to half and full and through all the waning to half and crescent and new—and vice versa—through many seasons. As she did so, the chipmunk chittered and danced and chittered some more. He wasn’t alone. Other chipmunks arrived. They drank acorn wine and imbibed in daisy-chain chipmunkallia. Saber-toothed squirrels arrived to see what all the noise was about. And unicorns. A whole herd of unicorns came—sources for some pointed arguments about which there seemed no resolutions. (Note: Contrary to myth and legend, unicorns are vicious hooved beasts who stick their sharpened two cents in everywhere without permission and with no sense of decorum. Their absence from the modern world is due primarily to these vile tendencies—well, that, and the ride they missed on the ark.)

Long story short: Man found himself with Woman, Woman with Man. Most men have forgotten the bonding between the first man and the chipmunk who danced in his shadow and within his being–but not all.

I, the anonymous author of this informative piece soon to be posted on Wikipedia, have met one such Man—a man who celebrates the chipmunk, who dances the dance, who heals and is healed by Woman. Unfortunately, names must remain hidden.

750words March 24 2015 ~ Punch Cards and Angels

Earlier today I read a blog post by Ken Decroo (Baja Moto Quest) about a dear friend Ken had lost to cancer and I started thinking about losses and the blanks those who go leave behind, like punched holes in a ticket or those cards stores hand out where there’s maybe twelve numbers and when all twelve are punched you get a free skein of yarn at the knitting store, or a free carton of smokes at the cigarette store, or a big discount on whatever at wherever.

Is my life like one of those cards? A thin, glossy rectangle imprinted with the colors of people who made me (genetically) and teachers who taught me (trained this brain) and friends who have held me and allowed me to hold them (song sharers, happy and sad). Is my life like that? And each time one goes, leaves this world behind … each time one dies, this small flat rectangular card of my life gets a hole punched?

Two years from now I’ll be seventy. The grandmas and grandpas are gone. Mom and dad are gone. Dozens of aunts and uncles are gone. Many cousins. too. And friends. And a husband. Plus teachers. Punched holes in my card have left a whole lot of blanks. There shouldn’t be much glossy space left to apply that hole puncher and squeeze down. Wrong.

Remember that movie from way back when, the 30s or 40s with Loretta Young, David Niven and Cary Grant. Cary was an angel. Loretta was the preacher’s wife. The preacher was Niven. There’s a scene in that movie with a bottle of wine which refills due to the angel’s presence. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not religious. I don’t follow scriptures. I don’t have the gift of “faith”—none of that. Yet, I like the idea of angels. I like to think the punched holes, the blanks, aren’t really blanks at all. I like to think they’re all still here/there—they’ve just gone transparent, see-through—if you know what I mean.

Beyond the idea of transparent angels, there’s the reality of other folks filling the gaps. New friends. New family as grandkids arrive in this world. New people to hold me and allow me to hold them. This punch card, for all the hits it takes, doesn’t get weaker, doesn’t become a tatter of once-shiny cardstock, doesn’t fold, doesn’t tear, doesn’t shred into bits.

To be sure—this life is a little dog-eared at the corners. I wouldn’t want it any other way. If I looked brand new, what would that say? Answer: The holder of this card hasn’t lived, hasn’t been hurt, hasn’t felt the sting of a bee nor watched a swarm of butterflies take over a thistle bush at the creek, hasn’t fallen off a go-cart and ripped a scar to her leg she still rubs with memories every now and again, hasn’t loved hard and been loved tenderly, hasn’t waltzed across Texas and into Arkansas, hasn’t been stepped on, hasn’t stubbed a toe—because she never made a move, never opened a gate or a door to find what might be on the other side. Yep. I’ll take dog-eared any day of the year. And I do.

If I line up my angels—pick them one by one from my brain as if picking up paper dots the hole punch has clipped from life—and interrogate each one as I examine its presence on my fingertip, what will they have to say?

Will Daddy break his shy silence? No. He’ll beam with that ruddy glow–his way of showing pleasure.

Will Mama turn her eyes away? She might. She never quite knew what to make of me, never quite understood what made me tick, yet, she was nonetheless sinfully proud of everything I did from first baby-step right on through to the end.

And Al? What of my late husband?

Each time I try to examine what my fingertip holds, his dot slips away. Honestly, I can’t explain it, can’t say if it’s me causing him to slip—or him—unwilling to be questioned. I could trouble myself about this, throw the blame of whatever it is going on in my thinking (or not going on as the case may be) over my shoulder like a sack of heavy laundry and tote it around throughout the day. Or I can let it go. No need to peel his dot from my finger. He’s already slipped away, silently, not skulking—just slipped away, shoulders straight, head high, what might be a smile about to happen, about to play in his eyes, curl the ends of his moustache, find his lips, change his unreadable face.

750words March 23 2015 ~ Sol y Mar = Sun and Sea

A few days ago I talked a neighbor into going over to the place where I’ll be living in about five weeks. The address is Sol y Mar #3001.

Sol y Mar = Sun and Sea. It’s all that.

The current tenant, floppy curls windblown every once in a while to dance over his eyes, was friendly enough as he answered questions and pushed gray-streaked ringlets away from his line of vision.

I asked about the path to the playa below the house. “You think a woman my age can handle it?”

A middle-aged surfer, he said, “Do this,” and lowered himself to squat, arms extended.

I was down in a heartbeat, arms extended.

“Yeah. You can handle it,” he said, turning toward the arched door separating his place and the neighbors on the south. Lucky for me—his quick turn away from my squatted response to his directive—because some serious wobbles took place as I stood to follow him through the gate. Rather than offering a hand, my neighbor smirked as I wobbled, then seemed a little surprised I made it up without using my hands to push off the flagstone.

“How’s surfing here?” I asked. I’d already mentioned kids and grandkids who surfed.

“For long boarders, it’s a little piece of heaven. K38 is probably better for short boards, guys who really know their stuff.”

Then we were through the gate, passing between the neighbor’s back patio area and the edge of the bluff above the ocean, stopping at a low fence built from wrought iron window-guard scraps and broken plywood. Maybe a bit over two feet tall, and lower on the bluff edge end—the fence was haphazard at best.

“There are two ways to cross. Some of us step over here—were the fence is low,” he said, standing at the edge of the bluff. He demonstrated. On that end the fence was only fourteen or fifteen inches high; between where he stood and a free-fall of a hundred feet or more (probably more) to the playa below—there wasn’t much room for error. A wobble, coupled with a toe tripped up by the fencing, would not be a good thing.

Maybe he noticed the tilt of my head, the doubtful squint of an examining eye, or the smile I wore—one of those smiles that said, “Not a bluebird’s chance in hell.” Whatever the cause, he moved away from the edge toward the opposite end of the fence and said, “Or, you can pull this open here, and wedge through.”

“Here” was nine or twelve feet away from the fence’s low end (and the precipice). “Here” pieces of ironwork and plywood leaned against a post and could be heaved away, allowing sideways (if not frontal) passage. We sidestepped through, walked on barren ground, and approached an outdoor “living” area replete with two easy chairs scavenged from the side of the road or left near a dumpster for anyone who might find them of continued value. Random surfers frequent this spot; one said “Hi, folks” from the open side doors of his van as we passed. He looked as if he’d been napping, sleeping bag hanging loose from the van’s cargo area to kiss the ground. I pictured him kicked back in one of the easy chairs, feet planted on an overturned bucket used as an ottoman, wood blazing in the makeshift fire pit, gazing toward the horizon, watching the sets come in from this high bluff at the edge of the sea.

From there, we stepped sideways down a slopping trail to steeper terrain with shallow steps cut into the earth, curved right and came to a drop where three steps had been chiseled from the shale, dropped to our fannies to reach footing on the highest cut-in step, and continued to the sandy bottom with the next two steps.

The tenant, already several yards ahead, said something along the lines of, “Little piece of heaven,” and I said something like, “Big piece of heaven if you ask me.” Looking north or south, I found nothing but beauty. Beautiful boulders, shimmering water, stretches of clean sand without a single footprint other than those left by the birds.

Cinnamon colored long-legged birds with long needle-like beaks high-stepped through low-tide shallows, seagulls soared air currents overhead, anemones lined the faces of tide pools, and sand-stone formations offered nature-sculpted places to sit and take it all in.

“From here,” the tenant said, “at low tide you can walk as far north as Las Gaviotas or south as far as Puerto Nuevo.”

I looked at my neighbor. “Las Gaviotas? That means I can walk to Rancho Santini by cutting up from the beach there. If low tide’s early enough, I can still walk to Jo’s for morning coffee!” He gave me the smile, the one that says, “Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen.”

I’m thinkin’ it will. I’m thinkin’ “Fooled you when I stood up without using my hands. That walk’s gonna happen.” All I have to do is get past those easy chairs up on the bluff before I sit myself down and put my feet up to take it all in …

Beryl Markham nee Clutterbuck, meet Irene Parilee Johns

(Stumbled across this September 2008 blog post with information about the “Irene” who inspired The True Life Adventures of Irene in White Tights, scheduled for publication July 2015. Seems like an entry worthy of a “reblog” {whatever that means} so I’m giving it a go.)

lynn doiron writes

Beryl Clutterbuck was born in 1902, three years after Irene Lowe.  Both women made perilous choices that could have resulted in Atlantic Ocean related deaths-Beryl by crashing her Vega Gull during her solo flight from England to North America, and Irene by a bad entry into the Atlantic after having been shot from the human cannonball cannon off the Atlantic City Steel Pier in New Jersey.

 Beryl has a book written as if by her but actually by her third husband, writer and journalist Raoul Schumacher.  West With The Night was published in 1942.  This, by Ernest Hemingway in a letter to Max Perkins, is found on the back cover:  “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West with the Night?  I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer’s log book.  As…

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