Dawn in Temecula_Before Launch
Two hours’ drive north of Mexico. Pre dawn: It’s as hot as noon.

Leviathan, resting

Leviathan, resting

The sky is waiting for us. And fire.

A hot air balloon is nothing like a plane…you just ascend. There is no wrench to leave the earth, no busting engine thrust–you just rise, like a thought.

Nodding to the Neighbors

Nodding to the Neighbors

On The Move

On The Move

For 20 seconds, the gas roars like a multitude of lions. When it stops there are no sounds at all.

What Keeps Us Up

What Keeps Us Up

Our world is a basket; our world is the world.

2,000 feet

2,000 feet



Like all visitors from space, we have become a mystery descending to the planet.
Balloon_The Earthlings Return

This is us, excellent.


Mt Chocorua_through the pines

I haul the kayak into the cabin of the car as I can’t muscle it up on top of the kayak racks by myself, lassoing the back end with a rope this way and that to the hatchback door. Its pointy nose pokes up by my driving arm like a benign shark as I travel the eight miles down to the lake, the one that’s in front of Chocorua mountain. I park lakeside and bump the kayak down into water in just a few steps. In the hold goes my camera, lunch. This is the only thing I’ve wanted to do all week. It will turn out that this day is a mathematically timely one, as though I planned it. Had I?

There’s no one out but a single fisherman in his own kayak and a tiny handful of swimmers that stay right by the shoreline. The sunshine is unusually abundant, the sky rainbow blue. The trees all around the lake muscle their branches, their tops as far into the sky as they can. They’re so green they’re nearly on fire.

I paddle up to a pair of water birds–loons– parents with their teenager. The kid bird, all dull brown down, is ungainly as any other adolescent and is practicing how to hydroplane on the lake surface. He’s not too good at it yet. His parents are identically beautiful: elegant black heads, tapered, blade-sharp beaks, black and white feathers nearly Parisian in their sophisticated pattern. The birds show no fluster that I’m there. I insert the paddle with utmost quiet to propel forward. They turn their backs on me but stay put, a sure sign of unconcern.


I stroke towards the mountain. It’s magnificent—one of the most photographed mountains in the world. It has long, broad, maternal arms encasing many ridges and mounds. The top is an Egyptian pyramid of pink granite veined with scrub growth. On the summit you can see all the way to the Atlantic, a 90 minute drive away. Everywhere, in all the available space left between the photons, the invisible rays, the natural dust, my mother is shimmering in the air. Of all the many peaks in New Hampshire, Chocorua was her favorite, but the water is all mosaic today and so, no images reflected. She is present without form. The brightness of the day charges everything inside and outside my skin in equal measure and I am not sure where I end and all other things start.

I arc south to have the sun more at my back for better pictures. How close I can get to the loons before they worry? The paddle slides in, softer than a ripple. I was 60 feet then which is good for a wildlife sighting. Now I am 50. Now 45. One parent and the teenager bob their way leisurely over to the edge where the chartreuse marsh grass grows. I put the camera down and nose away so they don’t feel pursued, rest the paddle across the bow. The kayak takes itself towards the middle on a slow and steady drift, following the hidden current. We are on lake time.

Lake Time

Then! the other loon, the off-duty one, surfaces 20 feet from the kayak’s edge. It swims in place and looks at me for a minute, then another minute, three minutes. It is thinking loon thoughts and has quite clearly sought me out. No offense taken as I bring the camera up again, nor at the shutter clicks. The loon dives and I assume that that is that. The boat drifts and the loon re-emerges less than 10 feet from my left elbow, regarding me calmly with its dark red, utterly untame eye: We are alone together in the same room of the world.

Loon Turning


It takes a while before I recognize that this day is the 40th since Mom died. Some first cycle has been gone through; the connection of all things is always closer than we thought.

Perfect Day_Mt Chocorua Lake

My Mother and Me

What is Left
The Days After the Phone Call
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday I think: my mother is dead. The sentence goes in a continuous loop. My mother is dead. In my head my mother is smiling somewhere outside, in the sunshine. She is 45, not 83. She is smiling and strong. My mother is dead. Like a drumbeat the thoughts go by themselves, unbidden: My mother is dead. I am so relieved. I want her back. My mother loves me. My mother loves me.

I see her with sun on her face, in her 40’s before the illness that paralyzed her left side for three and a half decades. I keep doing, doing, doing and the moment I stop any task—folding my money away in my wallet, washing a dish, directing the traffic of my family’s life, the preparations for Friday– The very moment I have 20 seconds with nothing to do, the voice recites My mother is dead. My mother is strong. My mother is so glad to see me, every time I come. I can never come often enough, stay long enough. I often don’t visit. I want her back. I want her back.

I wake in the middle of the night and I don’t have a mother anymore. I wake in the morning, my mother is dead. This is the new rhythm: everything I do is as someone who doesn’t have a mother anymore.

For the first time I understand Camus’s novel The Stranger 37 years after reading it. The first line is “Aujourd’hui Maman est morte,” (Today Mama is dead) and thereafter the narrator engages in meaningless, random violence. He no longer knows who he is. It makes so much more sense now. How pointless to have teenagers read it, almost none of whom have yet lost their mothers. I go to the house to comfort my father, yet again, before the big day. By his bedside is The Stranger.

The Day after the Funeral
I wake up and the drums start right away: “My mother is dead.” Later in the morning a startling image presents itself, in that inexplicable way that the imagination operates. As clear as a photo I see my mother, holding me high up with one arm, her hand cupped under my butt the way you can do with a one year old baby—hold them aloft in the palm of your hand. My mother is smiling and looking up at me. I am looking down at her upturned face and she is holding me, a full grown adult, in her upstretched hand. This has never happened, could never happen. But nonetheless, she is doing it all morning long, holding me up and the thought-beat switches back and forth from ‘my mother is dead’ to ‘my mother is the earth.’ My mother is pushing me upwards. My mother is the earth. She is pushing me up to the sky.

Me, Emmy, team

This is me holding, yes, our team Emmy for “Best of the Bronx” — a 10 part Public Service Announcement series commissioned by the (NYC) Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment that was produced at the Lehman College MultiMedia Center.
My role was as Head Script Writer and Writing Supervisor. Our team had a lot of people working very hard to make this happen. Some of the episodes I’m most proud of are linked in the MultiMedia tab.


Contest Results Are In!

Boy, was this hard to calculate! I cajoled 2 non-voters parties to count, plus I counted 3 times myself in multiple directions, dividing the dashboard into a grid.

The median and the average both seemed to come up to 37 as-yet-to-be-paid NYC parking tickets. Of course, one can only count what it is visible– God knows many are on the floor! N.B. As much as I love the cornucopia of tickets, my most favorite elements are the toy truck and doll-size construction hat.

So, the voters closest to this mark are
Yoon, with dead on 37
Cindy, with 35
Robin with 41.

I Love NY
(For larger image and my column, go to last post “♥ing New York: Why I (still) live here”

Prints will be made and delivered to your door
–and if anyone else wants a runner-up prize, let me know

♥ing New York: Why I (still) live here

Note contest at the end!
Some time ago I was waiting on a traffic light topping the very steep incline of West 165th street by Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. On one side of the street, going downhill, was a man in baggy jeans and flapping windbreaker riding a supermarket shopping cart at impressive speed towards the teeming traffic below on Riverside Drive. On the other side of the street, striding uphill, was an attractive woman en route to some appointment, confirming plans on her cell phone while sporting giant red bubble shoes, polka dot balloon pants, an elegant haircut, a bowler hat, and full white face clown makeup. Being delighted to be exactly where you are may be an aim of Zen; it’s also one of the reasons those of who–with or without the ♥– love NY.

I never thought I would end up in New York. Growing up in the nearby suburbs was too confined for me but not in the way people usually mean: my future self positioned me on a country estate, writing novels, coming to the city only occasionally to meet with my publisher or to take my future children to the Nutcracker at Christmas time. I tried to get far away twice in my adult life: once at college and once in my mid twenties.

Then I married an immigrant who thought NYC was everything one needed in life. Visions of free standing houses and space and gardens still danced in my head but we’ve only made it as far north as the Riverdale section of the Bronx, 10 blocks from the city line.

I also was on my cell phone at the same time the clown woman was, talking to a bored friend who lives amidst my coveted rural splendor in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And that was the day I got it, this New York thing that keeps me, uneasily, here, in this messy reuben sandwich of details and random juxtaposition. The day of the clown lady and the flying supermarket cart is the day I credit with making me know enough to take this picture, some years later one afternoon on 5th Avenue and 62nd street.
Here’s the challenge: How many parking tickets are there? Send in your count!
The first 3 winners get a signed print. Deadline: January 21

I Love NY

Falling Among Trees

Of the many remarkable qualities of trees one is that they don’t move.  We love them for staying in place.  We plant trees, climb in them, build metaphors of personal identity around them.  But they are so vital and look just enough like us (arms, fingers, shoulders, crotch, torso)  that they often it seems as if they should be able to up and leave.  In our hearts and art we make them do so.  In Macbeth Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane, and the Ents– the enormous tree beings in the Lord of the Rings –do finally walk out of their forest to fight the good fight against the Evil Empire. And then there are those trees that were so moved by Orpheus playing the world’s first music they up and followed him all the way to the sea, uprooted by their own yearning.

But trees do stay in place and to their stiff peril.  In the last 3 or 4 years the trees of New York City have paid heavily for their dependability. Two severe windstorms in late winter after biblical quantities of soil-dissolving rain leveled thousands, thinning out even modest softwood saplings.  An actual cyclone –that only touched land for 10 square blocks in my corner of the Bronx by the Hudson River 3 summers ago– twisted off the canopies of 80-foot vibrant trees like a corkscrew one after the other, leaving torqued and amputated trunks to mark the weather’s path.  Hurricane Sandy: a carnage of autumn entities entire, from their weightless yellow, red, or still-green leaves down to the toenails of their roots, keeled over with massive clumps of earth and entire chess squares of sidewalk pavement still clinging in their newly parallel state.  Red maple, red oaks, silver maples, locust, gingko, ash and bass, buckeye. Horse chestnut. Blue spruce. Impossibly tall tulip trees from the 1800‘s. Linden.  Such company we have kept.
City Streets, Cyclone
I fell recently, striding through some city woods, suddenly and without warning, cracking it would turn out, not one but two left ribs. For a few long minutes in my newly-parallel state I couldn’t figure out how to get up off the sloping path.  I’d been felled and going to ground is always hard.  I was alone among a hundred trees creaking quietly in the breeze.  Just me and them and the shout of the Metro North train over by the river.  A being of locomotion, I needed and did finally make it onto my feet, holding my busted glasses, making a slow and painful way back.  Mostly stalwarts lined my return path but a couple still-standing trees were split and splintered midway up their trunks.

Trees-Wind-Train 15 sec.


Doing the Flip: Mirror Images

It’s the same, just reversed, you say…but it’s really not the same.

Clasp your hands together– either your right thumb will be on top or the left one. Clasp your hands together 1,000 times and whichever thumb started on top will be so every time. Automatic. Your body-mind decided which one would go on top without asking you first. Now, try reversing it. Strange. Awkward. Your original thumb–left or right– and all the rest of the fingers will be itching to get back to the ‘right’ sequence.

As for what we see, it’s hard to be sure if an image is inherently ‘right’ in one direction or just what we’re used to.

Tree trunks, then canoe? (which is the original shot?)
White Birches, Canoe

Or canoe, then tree trunks?   Would you say the canoe is arriving
White Birches, Canoe

–or returning?

Mirror Image Diptych: Canoes and Birch Trees

Mirror Image Diptych: Canoes and Birch Trees

Leaving home

All this summer, every time I drive any distance out from my neighborhood I am filled with the presence of my elder son’s imminent leaving. I hold the steering wheel poised for tears, but the cry is too deep to come. Everything is right and in its place, everything is as it should be. Which means that everything must change. The disequilibrium is mandatory. At nearly 18, the breaking up of the way we were is necessary for him to have his life.

Watching Jonathan move into his adulthood is like watching a single wave in the water. You follow it with your eye as long and hard as you can, but in a few oceanic heartbeats that particular wave joins a host of other waves, and at any rate is moving out and away from where you stand on the shore.
Click theMontauk_looking NE_0636 link below to open video (25 seconds);Photo and video shot at Montauk, NY.