The puppy-chewed corners of my flame orange copy of “How Can I Help” by Ram Dass, is long gone; along with nearly all the books we foolishly shipped to Kauai in 2001. Within a couple years mold made them unreadable.
Today I remembered the book because I recently withdrew from social media. It was accidental (when my phone began to hiccup), and then the spacious liberation I felt encouraged me to continue.
The “likes” were making me sick at heart. My need for them.
As I dropped into my physical world, instead of slouched over a screen, I became aware of the leash Instagram had twisted and bound around my attention.
The story that sprang to mind was one Ram Dass included in "How Can I Help," titled “The Rabbi.”
One day a rabbi, in a frenzy of religious passion, rushed in before the ark, fell to his knees and started beating his chest, crying, "I’m nobody! I’m nobody!"
The cantor of the synagogue, impressed by this example of spiritual humility, joined the rabbi on his knees. "I’m nobody! I’m nobody!"
The "shamus" (custodian), watching from the corner, couldn’t restrain himself, either. He joined the other two on his knees, calling out, "I’m nobody! I’m nobody!"
At which point the rabbi, nudging the cantor with his elbow, pointed at the custodian and said, "Look who thinks he’s nobody!"
A few months ago I did my last public poetry event. I wrote a blog about the night a bug flew into my mouth, and as stated there, decided to shift away from the performance piece of making Short Order Poems.
That retreat, and then more recently, leaving Instagram, I like how it feels to become less attached to needing to be seen or "liked."
I spent 2018 pitching poetry decks to retailers. The most fun I had though, was having friends take poems on trips around the world where they'd slip them into public places for discovery. My dear friend Kimberly and I used to refer to these secret deeds as “pixies.”
This week at Kiko, a Canadian visitor told me she’d bought a little poem last year while visiting Kauai and returned for another.
“Every time I clean out my wallet,” she said, “I discover my little poem and it makes me smile.”
This is exactly what I’m going for by printing them into poetry decks.
Pixies. A playful deed done in a secret and surprising way... even if it is simply to delight one's self.
Where do I see these little guest check poems going next?
Restaurants and diners. Naturally.
I miss connecting with strangers over plates of fries and sudsy beers. I miss the juggling act and jostling elbow-to-elbow at the reach-through window where steaming faces of cooks over a grill are framed by the food warmer. I miss the intensity, heat and over-stimulation. I miss serving.
Guest check poems belong in that world. Nourishment for the heart scribbled on a guest check like a love letter from someone you don’t know, but wish you did.
Friends and family tell me to make a physical book rather than just having the Kindle collection that’s available on Amazon. My intent has been from the start to free poetry from their bindings because poetry books are mostly bought by literary types.
I want my poems to reach that thoughtful and soul searching population who are unlikely buyers of poetry books. I want my poems to live in restaurants and diners where guests can stumble upon them and be surprised by the synchronicity of those words at that moment.
Thanks for dropping by.
It's been my pleasure serving you.
Two Sundays ago I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper, The Garden Island newspaper. I include a link with this warning: when a letter is too sexy the publisher riddles the text with ads.
So here it is, ad free: Letter for Sunday March 17, 2019
Women Of Kapahi Unite
It’s 7 a.m. Wednesday in Kapahi, mist still hovers across treetops and the road not yet awake with a morning commute. It’s me and two elder dogs slowly making our way to the falls.
On the return home I catch movement from the corner of my eye and realize I’ve made a grave error. I pass the house of a man my age (mid-50’s) buck naked framed by the doorway of his garage, touching himself, aggressively, and looking directly at me. By aggressively, I mean, masturbating.
Anyone who knows me would think I’d verbally and loudly abuse this perverse knucklehead. But I don’t. It’s the third time it’s happened and not the first time I’ll report it. It stuns me to silence. My silence angers me almost as much as his act.
I call KPD. They arrive at my door quickly and we converse about how to handle this. The end result being, without a second witness or a photo, there’s no probable cause for citation.
So, I return to the scene and walk door-to-door. One neighbor nods affirmatively when I point to his house: “Oh, yah. He does this all the time. Not to me. But I’ve had multiple women warn me and I don’t let my daughter walk alone to the park.”
I leave my number asking her to let these women know I need them to step forward.
If you are reading this and any of it sounds familiar please contact the investigating officer, Manuel Rivera, MRivera@kauai.gov or call 241-1711.
It published on a Sunday, posted to Facebook soon after, and by Tuesday there were dozens of women coming forward with two decades of stories of this same individual wagging his junk at them, chasing them down Kapahi Rd., or even worse. One responder is the husband of a victim. By Friday three of us gave statements to an investigator for the prosecuting attorney.
Women, and the men who love them, are rising to reclaim a singular voice. My husband told me that when he tries to protect me and there's no recourse against people like this, he feels emasculated. We heal together by taking action.
Most of these ladies made reports to the police, some as many as four times. Somehow this bastard escapes being cited over the past two decades. In fact, when I went to the precinct, a cop told me my report was the only one in six years. And another cop told me it's not against the law to beat off on your own property.
My response, "Yah it is. If I'm on a public road..." Then I stood closer to him to demonstrate how vigorously the perv was stroking himself not 20 feet from me.
Later I'd learn of many other women who've called KPD multiple times, all of us receiving the same pat response:
"It's his word against yours and unless you have a picture or there are two of you, we can't cite him."
Well we'll see.... Expect more updates.
#1: Make a list of things your beloved hated
#2: Make a list of the things they loved
#3: Meditate on one super power they had that only you know
#4: Count and recount number of grand and great grandchildren
#5: Have someone else read it for publication (Very important)
With any luck you'll offer a glimpse into an enormous life:
Caroline took orders from no one, fed cats on the kitchen counter and always had coffee brewing for visitors.
She died December 13th at her eldest daughter’s home in River Forest, IL surrounded by family, under the gentle care of Hospice.
Her Alcoholics Anonymous “bumper sticker wisdom” continues to guide her five children: This too shall pass, One day at a time and Let go & let God.
She loved sunshine, convertibles and the sea; big dogs and tempestuous cats; AA meetings, family dinners, promptly served at 5:30; and dog walks with her husband Jim, at Otay Lakes.
She hated sensible shoes and sushi; seatbelts and sunscreen and to be rushed.
Other familiar advice includes: baking soda cures belly aches; leave car keys under the seat so you always know where they are; do a good turn without being caught; never leave the house without a fresh application of lipstick, and stick together kids, there’s safety in numbers.
She hated Monty Python, Italian food and good two-shoes. She loved Clint Eastwood, chile relleno and tattooed forearms. She preferred WW II movies over comedy; spirituality over religion; orange marmalade over Dad’s homemade grape jam.
If there was anything secret about Caroline it was this: she was a dolphin wearing a human costume. In water, she sliced the surface like a blade, garnering two silver medals in Senior Olympics.
On land, she was green-fingered and loved the feel of dirt beneath her nails. She was a graceful dancer in the arms of her husband. She loved Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash.
She never said no to a stray. In fact, never said no to an opportunity to help those more burdened in life. For decades she and her husband served the alcoholic community. They were also foster parents for four years in the 70s, hosting more than 400 teenagers in their family home.
She is survived by four daughters, a son, eight grandkids and one granddaughter. The family is grateful knowing she is reunited with their dad, and imagine there’s a heaven with 12-step meetings and dogs weaving between legs and chairs. Oh and cake, lots of cake.
Please donate to San Diego Humane Society or South Bay Pioneers in lieu of sending flowers.
With my back against the wall and the Remington 5 on a red stool before me, I sat poised for an order. A young dad with three curious boys, roughly 8 to 11, were nose to nose with me firing questions about this crazy contraption.
"Look that's a typewriter kids," the father exclaimed with genuine enthusiasm. "Those were the first computers!"
Behind him a sweet couple stood waiting to proffer their poem title. We'd chatted earlier and they'd gone into Kiko to see guest check poetry art as an example of past poems I'd typed-to-order, then swagged into art for the shop. They were looking at me with eager anticipation while all the boys had me lassoed in a tight circle.
Two women approached from my left calling my name. Then another old friend on the right poked her head through the crowd. Turning toward Michelle's voice is when it struck: The Bug.
Excuse the language, but I shit you not, that monster of a bug shot into my mouth and down my windpipe with the speed of a dragonfly's wing. In fact, it may have been a dragonfly. Okay. Not a dragonfly, but something too big to be lodged in a human throat.
I froze and no one noticed immediately. I was paralyzed and breathless from the scorching pain.
Over coffee the next morning, through a smoker's rasp, I'd tell my husband it was not unlike the time I sucked a hot ember through a dry bong behind a bowling alley in the 70s. It's been five days and I still feel, or imagine I feel, the rough bug landing pad.
When my audience realized I was in a state there came a barrage of, "Are you okays?" While I could breath, I couldn't talk. I was pointing to my neck and shrugging. Then I lept up and pushed through the crowd to get to the bathroom for water and a three minute coughing spell.
Word of advice if someone's choking: Don't ask questions. Find water quickly and hand it to them.
The epiphany arrived two days later. It's amazing how a shock will dislodge memory. Like the night in high school behind the bowling alley that I've not thought of in decades. I then recalled sage advice received in the 90s from a Self magazine editor; it was my first national publication, a story on the Chopra Center kitchen. Amy asked me to email what I had for the story and when I did her reply was brief: "Stop writing. Time to organize your material."
I have hundreds of poems from almost four years of typing them in public. I've self-published one small Kindle collection of 64 poems on Amazon and I play with imagery for wall art and cards I sell at Kiko Simple Goods and Bespoke in Truckee, Calif. Like that bug, I want to give the poem wings to fly further, (but hopefully without endangering anyone.)
Thank you bug that flew down my throat. Five days later and I'm still coughing up your imaginary wings and legs.
To begin you must know this, I dismissed my mother's advice.
"Marry someone raised in a family like your own," she warned. "It'll save you struggle later when your marriage is challenged in ways you never imagined. The more you have in common the easier it'll be later."
She was right. Twenty-five years with Wes and I recognize now how our divergent views on the daily stuff of life often ignites the fight. In our case it's my perception of dog and cat hierarchy in the family. Mostly dog training, placement, feeding, discipline etc.
Here is the short short history of us:
Wes's parents immigrated from Brazil in the 60s, were fundamentalist Christians fleeing the threat of Communism, and possess a can-do work ethic. They landed in Santa Cruz to labor in the chicken houses and strawberry fields. Household pets were a foreign concept to a family living hand-to-mouth in apartment settings.
My mom is from a ship building family in Northeastern Canada and married a Naval officer from Iowa. My mother was a homemaker and raised five kids, while Dad spent 42 or their 50 years married at sea. Stray animals- ranging from dogs to snakes, rats to (briefly) a possum were welcome under our roof.
I told you it'd be brief.
Fast forward to 1994. Wes and I meet at California Hot Springs where he worked for HB Cattle as a ranchhand. (Possibly the only vegan with that job description.) His 1 year-old Australian Shepherd was Paje, Portuguese for shaman. Q, my 2 year-old black Labrador, thus named for Quan Yin, was a gift to myself after graduating from a Taoist Studies Program.
Wes and I merged families and eventually moved to Kauai in 2001. It wouldn't be until 2011 when we'd go from being a two dog family to a three dog family, and I am happy to report, it was Wes who invited the third.
Going from two dogs to three is where the unraveling of peace in our house began. Well, that and the fact that Wes's mother moved from Santa Ana, Calif. to live with us. I think this is a salient point because the Dog Wars began not long after her arrival.
But, I get ahead of myself.
Meet Javali, 15 year-old Chihuahua.
Wes and Java met while I was on a coffee break. Wes dropped by the Kauai Humane Society, where I worked as the Volunteer Coordinator. I wasn't there so he wandered into the kennels where he fell to one knee (I learned from a vet tech who witnessed the proposal) where he wooed this old gal through the bars.
"Hey there, you look so pretty in that sweater," he cooed.
Javali had been delivered to the shelter by her owner. Her intake card reported she was being surrendered because "she's old." It was February and she was missing a lot of hair so a volunteer brought her the infamous purple sweater.
Later that night, home from work, I'd tell him he'd been busted flirting with an older woman.
"That old girl, will she be adopted?" He asked.
I told him it's hard to rehome the seniors. Two weeks would pass and he'd ask about her again.
"She's still there," I answered. "Shall I bring her home?" (Okay, guilty.)
To which he said nothing.
In my book silence is acceptance.
And this is how the three dogness of our life began.
Ok. Not the end. The beginning. But I release you to go brew another cuppa and ponder his little nugget.
Until next time. Thanks so much for reading. And remember folks, spay and neuter your pets. Please.
I realized my scone super power while baking at Macy's Coffee House in Flagstaff in the late 80s. This recipe is far and away from the one I used there, where we literally measured in handfuls and metal scoops. As for the curry, it developed over 20 years and is forever being altered. The patties are from a NYT article.
I'm posting these because I'm so excited to be headed to California for a blast of "girlfriend" with my best gal pal Kelly who baked with me at Macy's. She is also the one I made a poem for in the H`art Project with Joanne Green. I can't wait to cook for her.
So here we go.
Pam’s Citrus Sour Cream Cranberry Scones
Preheat oven to 400. Bake 18-20 minutes
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whir food processor
Add zest of one lemon. Do not omit. This is an important flavor.
Add 3/4 cups butter. Whir til gravely.
Add a half cup cranberries or cherries and process for a few seconds. There will be tiny red fruit specks in the flour. This is the secret to how wonderful these scones are.
to a bowl. Add another cup cranberries.
a cup orange juice with 1/2 cup sour cream. Fold into the dry ingredients.
Plop spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Mix a teaspoon cinnamon with 2 tablespoons sugar to sprinkle on top.
***Alternate flavor that’s equally delicious is to skip the lemon and dry fruit to replace with one cup chopped Medjool dates and half cup chopped dry fruit.
2 cups cooked quinoa. FYI, one cup raw quinoa makes about 3 cups cooked.
1 cup corn
4 green onions, just the green part
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon mint
2 tablespoon cilantro (Use your favorite fresh herb.)
1/2 cup parmesan
1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry polenta
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup panko breading
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sambal or your favorite hot sauce
Mix cooked quinoa, corn, green onion, garlic and herbs. Add the cheese, salt, pepper, polenta, flour and panko. Finally, add eggs, ghee and ugly sauce to the party. I recommend placing it in the fridge for an hour for easier handling. The cakes are quite sturdy and pull together well. No need for frying in heavy oil. Just give a spritz of your favorite spray oil and fry 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve as a side or in a bun. Drizzle with more sambal.
P.S. Have I told you how much I appreciate you today? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Secreting poems into unsuspecting places returns me to being an 8 year-old, when I was certain I'd marry actor Danny Kaye one day. Actually, this was a fight between my sister Nancy and I-- which of us would marry Danny. We also fought over who would marry dad, but my mom made it clear she wouldn't share.
Danny Kaye had this magical quality in "Hans Christian Anderson" that convinced me my role in life was to bring that kind of joy to the world. I knew early in life I was a storyteller and wanted to sing it from the rooftops. How I dreamed of being that kid in drama class who'd fling themselves center stage to belt out a solo and bring tears and laughter to an audience.
Alas, I'm not that girl. Making poems for an audience of one to four people from behind a typewriter is as close to a public performance as I've gotten. But deep inside, I want the whole world to hear my song. So I tuck these little card poems in trees and fences around our island and hope I delight someone.
As a kid I attended many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with my mom and remember one pamphlet about doing secret good. I wish I could remember the actual title. What I do remember is the point was not to be caught so that you were doing a sweetness with no expectations. I suppose I'm not really doing that here since I'm telling you.
Wanderlust seizes me strongest in spring, so I put a poem of that title at the airport. Our island is so small you can walk right beside the runway and listen to jets arrive and depart. One time I was leaving for the Mainland and during the acceleration of take-off I looked out the window to discover my husband speeding along the frontage road to race the plane in his red pick-up truck. I was waving like a crazy woman through the tiny window pane with my seatmates a bit concerned for my sanity.
The other poem is beneath Ironwood bark on my favorite beach where our short story book club meets and it's also where I walk my three dogs regularly.
Thanks again for listening to my happy wanderings. I wish you a surprise; one that is totally unexpected and most importantly, deserved.
That's what her editor told her, "Put a dog in it," to reach a broader demographic and increase book sales. It was a memoir on South American shamanism and a furred friend would make the book more marketable.
But that's not why dogs are in this blog. In fact, I consider and reconsider including them because I fret over exposing my deeply embedded dependence.
'Island living turned out to be lonelier than I'd ever dreamed.'
It never occurred to me that in the literal isolation of being surrounded by water there'd be little sense of belonging culturally and no community to lean into. As it turns out, dogs are my answer to every loneliness. When we moved to Kauai in 2001 our two dogs came with us. That was six dogs ago now.
My origin story includes three sisters, a brother and an additional five foster kids under one roof, so any derivative of the word "lone" was not in my vocabulary. I never experienced alone, lonely or loner.
There were two bathrooms in our Southern California suburban home, and one of them off-limits to teenagers. At any time in our shared bathroom there'd be a sister in the shower, one on the toilet and two of us wiping steam from the mirror as we applied mascara or brushed our teeth.
Add to that: rats, cats, dogs, rabbits and a king snake.
Part of the Woolway family dynamic always included two dogs. There was the border collie Toot Toot, so named for her love of water. There was the first Flip, a boxer my father tucked into his peacoat pocket and presented to his bride after returning home from the New Port War College where he taught. My mom said she "flipped" when she saw the puppy. There's been a Schitzo, Girl 1 and Girl 2; Chris, Skeeta, Sally, Tracy, and the one token male, Fellah, who my grandpa had euthanized the September he and Nana came from Halifax while Mom was in rehab and Dad in Vietnam.
Leave it to say, there is much to share on the dog front. I had to begin somewhere. Ours is a family of wanderers with nearly no connection to our ancestors. In Hawaii there is pride in chanting your lineage; the only lineage I can chant is our animals. I think I'll save that for a future post.
Thanks again for listening to my happy wanderings.
What do the three have in common? Friendship. That's all. Life changing ingredients discovered in the spirit of community.
I met quinoa in the late 80s and was indifferent until I experienced it during a one-month retreat at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. I was with my new friend Brian as we swooned over the warm cereal sprinkled with granola, bathing in a pool of butter and honey.
French lentils arrived not long after while working in the kitchen at a health food store in San Luis Obispo. I adapted their recipe and continue to share a simple union of these oddly firm and toothsome lentils tossed with quinoa and seasoned only with salt and flax oil.
Flax oil slid into my life through a fellow artist and tai chi practitioner, Buffie Harris. We were practicing yang style tai chi at the Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego. At first I shuddered at what for me, was a hefty price at $30 a bottle, but the nutty flavor won me over and today, I'm never without it. Buffie and I collaborated on artful projects, kundalini yoga and commiserated over the single life. Oh those were the days....
Remember the corny adage of "Keep it simple sweetheart" (KISS)?
I didn't like it when my mom said it to me as a teenager and can't quite believe I'm using it here. But really.
Mix equal amounts of cooked French lentils with quinoa and season with flax oil and salt. Of course for parties I add parsley for color or sundried tomatoes, or what have you, and when on hand I stir in Yotam Ottelenghi's homemade sambal.
At the end of the day though, a container of this in my fridge sustains me Tuesday through Friday or when I'm too lazy or impatient to work for my meal.
Thanks again for listening to my happy wanderings.
Next up for PoFoDo is the "Do" piece of the project: Hip hip for those four-legged beasts filling every loneliness, and occasionally, upsetting marital balance.
I met the Poem Elf at Kiko's while working. She saw my poems displayed and then shyly mentioned her project: she hides poems she loves all over her Mid-western city.
She told me, "I just want to get poems out of books."
I know exactly what she means- to reinsert them in public spaces where, I imagine, people who wouldn't dream of opening a poetry book may stumble upon them.
She told me, "I'm not a poet. I'm a lover of poetry."
She makes physical copies of poems and plants them in grocery store carts, under rocks or between fence railings, then she snaps a photo and posts it.
Here's how she describes it: "Poem Elf was born out of two inclinations: I like poems and I like secret tricks. The mystery of a poem and elfin mischief come together as I loiter about until I can post these poems in secret around my mid-western city and wherever else I may be."
As a nod to her and also a reflection back on my own life, I'm doing the same on Kauai. My first poem secreting was on the Westside. The crease in this little Short Order Poem is from being in my pocket. These little cards are available at Kiko or you can just ask me and I'll mail you one.
While my husband paddled Kalapaki to Poipu, I strolled a labyrinth at Mahaulapu. The rugged terrain, Trade Winds and meditative walk between the stones restored my peace; I had been in a real funk. When I 'd get like this as a kid (entitled, bored and cranky) my mom would tell me to go do something nice for someone. And she was right. She is right. Self-absorption is toxic and one powerful remedy is through service to others.
A few weeks passed and the Poem Elf sent me a photo of my poem. I hadn't yet conveyed my intent to copycat her and am thrilled she stumbled upon it while still visiting Kauai.
On our way back to the Eastside, my husband and I always refuel at Kauai Coffee, where they offer free samples. I tucked one of my favorite poems in a table.
A peak into my history: back in the 90s I wrote a proposal for "The Pixie Handbook," which is about doing secret good deeds. I failed to find a publisher, but after a 20 year nap, I feel my pixie-self waking up and am happy to reimagine a new version of the idea here in the form of poems.
If you are a fan of secret deeds check out the French film, "Amalie." I'm pretty sure this is where my friend Kimberly and I conceived of doing "pixies."
Thank you for dropping by.
PoFoDo is a blog of poetry, food and dogs. Next up is the Fo piece, so stay tuned by joining the mailing list. There is no "Newsletter" per se, hopefully just a brief alert to let you know of new posts.
Now go do something kind without being caught.
I dare you.