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"Interior Design"
by Daniel Friedman

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Candace Calsoyas
Catamaran Literary Reader Associate Editor

A Village in the House

An American house is a village with a coffee shop, baker and laundry maker

The coffee is ground freshly every morn and delivered from the mill
savored in the kitchen nook on orange and yellow place mats with matching napkins

The garden too is maintained as a village green, the flowers bright
the hedges trimmed and defning walls, without a straying rock.

The bathroom hot tub kindles both fire and relaxation,
heat dissolves in the bedroom and into puffs of down quilts and hotel sateen sheets-- 600 thread count

And from the laundry comes the Perma-Press as tho groomed by a beauty in a Degas “ironing” painting

The pizza oven awaits the marble rolling pin as it smooths the crust on the very ancient granite counter,
made by God for dough rolling?

The ice cream shop hides in the freezer awaiting the brave who venture into
the organic creamery of
praline whiskey, caramel ginger, and what about that rosemary ale?

The garden vegetables await tasting; food matching the turquoise deep-blue paisley patterned plates
An American house with alluringly colorful displays---table cloths, blue wine glasses and floral views.

And when this village fails to entertain and buttons up its doors,
another awaits, not far away
only a short ride in the quiet Prius

You Turned Sixty

It might be 60,000 meals you've eaten, 60 years times 1000.
What would a garbage compacter do with all that
Would it be a pound of ash or decomposed peat, could it make oil, all that deadness that went into you to become only more dead

What did it make? Energy, laughter, struggle and kindness
(Along with many hours in the Loo)
What kind of plant did it grow, what kind of animal did it make?

A person who writes poetry but doesn’t like to read it---
Because then it all becomes the same, words

A person who likes to sing, preferably out of tune
Because that comes naturally

A person who likes to paint to see how internal brush strokes
inscribed in secret, walled chambers
Fly into thin air
To appear as color and line
A person who goes to non-western countries
To feel relief at not being rich

But whose likes are these, these ones at 60?
Not much of your mother’s or father’s
not much of former lovers, husband, or mother-in-law.
Whose likes are these?

These likes are yours and
Have brought you to sixty.
To another like: Witnessing
beauty and bounty in your eating
Before all becomes a very small mound of ash.

The Map of Pt. Reyes

There is that phrase “to put it on the map.”
What did it for fair San Francisco?...the Goldrush, the sheltered bay,
or its beauty that echoes intact at Pt. Reyes?

That map of Pt. Reyes displays symbols, a half-toenail sized hiker for a trail, a quarter toenail of a tent for a campsite, or is it thumbnail-size I'm thinking of?
On the map, the sea hugs the land or is it opposite?
and why is Pt. Reyes “real land”, roughly carved, messy nature
while San Francisco is neatly cemented, messiness gone, clipped to smithereens into  roads and buildings, buildings and.....
roads no longer parkable; those hills parked with cars waiting to be towed

Where are those thumbnails for San Francisco with campsites and hiker icons?
Once found on Divasadero, Sutter or maybe Steiner
Who transformed those sites where fires cooked salmon freshly caught from the Golden Gate when a now non-existent hiker worked his way to the shore under the bridge that wasn't there
To cast into billions of fish and only catch one.
Do  creatures now tread water looking wonderously at  that shadowing bridge and do they know it's red?  How many are left behind in and around that gate of gold ? 
Was it the rush that named the bridge?

Pt. Reyes is mapped as contours
folded into hills risen deeply from the sea, meaningfully green while San Francisco is grey and gridded
While the hills of its city “moved on” as we say
 “Moved in” might be more apt for who
invited so many to obliterate those campsites and build houses,
to make roads of walking trails?
Lacquered black to shine as monuments to engineers/transportation gods who smother land
Under roads that now shun cars.

And what happened to the transportation gods....are they disappointed
That the  pavements are no longer buffed and shined by 4 wheels at a time? 

Do they dream of lacquering Pt. Reyes with a sheen that will again become purposeless?
BUT WAIT.....I see the ½ toenail sized hiker on the map
A ¼ thumbnail campsite, a bit too small without glasses.
Even the engineer god must honor those icons and take his lacquer elsewhere.

A Zephyr Blows Thru Her

Neither of the she--s understood the other. They spoke but only to talk, which bore no similitude to what either she-1 or she-2 was thinking. Oh, she-1 could discern and deal with the obvious. She knew well the story of she-2's doll—a present from her grandmother, which she intensely and devotedly loved. When her grandmother continuously threatened to take the doll away if she-2 didn't behave, she-2, fed up, packed up the precious doll and carefully laid it into the box in which it came.. “Take your old doll, I don't want it anymore," she-2 proclaimed. She-1 thought that showed a lot of pluck. But again, it was the obvious that she-1 noticed and recorded which was why the two she..s spoke only the language of sound rather than engagement. No story went further than narrative with a few less-than-astute conclusions anyone might draw.

Both tall, energetic and imbued with a sense of her own superiority, each fought for center stage. She-1 had once had a husband with whom she could not live, but to admit that he was less than dazzling, brilliant, and charismatic was to admit to her failure of judgment, and to acknowledge that she had fallen for someone who was pathologically flawed, not so brilliant but egomaniac and possessed mostly with his own self-worth. They had met at Yale at the end of WW II. sailed to Rome as diplomats and then lived in Princeton where they met Albert Einstein and Edward Teller. She-1 validated her life choices by casting her children in the same light; they too were dazzling, brilliant, charismatic but like their father had fallen short of the mark.

She-2 emerged, grew into her own name, Emma it was. Having spent five years at UC Berkeley eating her way through all the restaurants around Telegraph and Shattuck, she had finally gotten a degree and met Paul who introduced her to a pastoral life. After spending four years on a farm with him, finally she could sit quietly and tolerate her own company. Taking care of goats and sheep, planting lavender and pumpkins by day and reading at night by warming wood fires, Emma found a sense of hope and well-being with Paul that she couldn't imagine having found anywhere.
She-1, too grew into her name, Stella it was. Stella traveled a great deal, turning her adventures into articles to inspire others to traipse the world. She-1 always had felt good about her life and couldn't understand why Emma had so little drive and whose life was really a result of someone else's work. After all, her father-in-law was a surgeon and had bought the vast acreage upon which she lived.

Both had written about the sea: Emma searching for words to describe being at sea while Stella chased the human story. She wrote about a trip, a quest to reenact W.W. II in the Pacific: “The two week cruise had been advertised as an odyssey through the W.W. II Pacific campaign and for the five hundred passengers aboard the Sea Princess, that's what it became. Some of us were widows and children of WW. II soldiers.” Stella was neither widow or a soldier's child but she often featured herself in her stories. In contrast, Emma wrote: “The sea is the most nowhere of anywhere, drawing to it those unsure of wanting to be anywhere.”

Many years later, Stella wondered if she had been presumptuous, using her craft and skill to explicate Emma's story? She now trembled thinking about a letter she had written, not so long ago, about Emma’s life---ten truths about selfishness, self-indulgence, an unstructured life that lacked regular, full time employment. Ironically, all the qualities, meant to be derogatory criticisms, were the very attributes that enchanted Emma... living according to natural seasonal and daily rhythms on remote wild land. Stella sent her “ten truths” to Emma’s in-laws and then left for Hawaii. There was no way for Emma to fight Stella's words which became the irrefutable truth. The land was sold and having suffered from his family's indictment, Paul disintegrated emotionally and left. Displaced, Emma had lost her land.

Stella wondered how all this had come about and why Emma had suffered so. But she herself had not had an easy time living with Emma’s scorn, and couldn't help wanting to get back for all the derision. She allowed none of these emotions to surface fearing that if her facade “broke”, her face would crack and crumble and become as chipped, burned, and desiccated as her heart. That wouldn't do so Stella's face froze into a cool immovable marble mask. And yet she trembled as though a zephyr blew thru her, an uncontrollable wind, threatening to shake out realizations about the effects of her actions. In time, as the Parkinson’s disease progressed, Stella could barely hold and steady a glass.

Emma watched, seeing the zephyr wriggle and wrest the unknown from Stella's firm determined pronouncements on others' lives. It was as though battling within her body was the reasoned logic and judgments of others while something else was breaking loose. Was this comeuppance?

Slippages occurred when, on occasion, compassion kindled a touching moment. Emma realized how needy her mother had become. She rubbed her arm to soothe her just as Stella had when Emma was a child. Stella would then slip away into sleep leaving Emma as alone as she had ever been.
At one point, longing for her daughter's affection, Stella had lumbered forward menacingly, her ungainly limbs falling to the floor where Emma sat cross legged. Unbalanced, Stella fell against her daughter trying to snuggle. But for Emma it was far too late, as the silence of so many years made affection unreal.

Still, the hard edges of their psychological disconnect wore and eroded. Now they meshed and fit together as two pieces in a puzzle, a large mysterious and intricate puzzle whose picture, unlike the one on the box, was as yet indiscernible. Having been displaced from her farm, Emma had found her way back to the old life she had lived, in great part to prove that it had been real.

This disease is inexorable” stated her mother.
I will leave you money and maybe it will make up for some of the deficiencies of your childhood.”
But what about the letter, the ten truths? What compensation would come for that?

Emma wrote her mother a poem:

A zephyr you never noticed blows through you,
Gently shedding crumbs of crusted remnants
dried tears of misdreamt dreams
scales and skins of once fresh fruits
And like the wind in autumn, blowing leaves free,
Revealing bare buds of new branches, opening space for change.

After one last zephyr blew thru Stella, everything froze, Stella's face, her heart , her body. Emma amended the poem: “She was me and I was she and the fate of all she---s, mothers and daughters, is a gentle shake easing first one, then the other from the world.”

Candace Calsoyas is a longtime Lecturer in Literature at UC Santa Cruz.  Some of her courses include Environment and Society, Sustainability Internships, Literature of the Sea, and Semester at Sea. In 2011 she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach at University of Tirana, Albania.  She also received a grant to teach Culture and Environment at Bath University in England.  She has given many lectures including Dickens Universe at the UCSC summer Dickens conference.  She has published many articles on nature and the environment for magazines and journals including The Sierra Club, Writing Nature, Country Living Magazine and others.  She has a Ph.D., MA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, and a BA in Classics and Social Science from UC Berkeley.

Mary Allen
Elizabeth McKenzie
Catherine Segurson
Eric Weinblatt

Candace Calsoyas
Molly Doyle
Zack Rogow

Andrew Beierle
Tom Christensen
Alyson Lie

Daniel S. Friedman

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