The Boat People


I remember when I was a child and my Great-Great Aunt Clarabelle came to visit. She was well over one hundred at the time and as we sat on the deck of Mavis’s wooden sailboat, she told stories of a time before the rains of 2013 and the great floods that followed.

She was in her 30’s in 2013, with three decades of dry land living already under her belt. She grew up in the desert, a place I read about as a child but thought was imaginary, like the end of a rainbow or the land of nod or Manhattan. I couldn’t imagine that such a place had really existed. Roping cattle on her father’s ranch, everything in her life was dependent on the land.

In place of water, she grew up on dry, cracked earth, surrounded by cacti and plants that knew how to survive on less than an inch of annual precipitation. She told us of things like baseball and camping and roads. As a child, she and her sister would hike and climb trees and they never even learned to swim. She told us that the smell of rain in the desert is the most beautiful of all the smells. Better than bread baking or things called roses.

As Clarabelle grew older, she knew the world was changing. Years went by with no rain at all, wildfires followed, and then rain fell too fast and couldn’t be absorbed. She said it became extreme and unbalanced. People discussed what was happening, but no one really knew what to do and nothing changed. The droughts became longer, the tornadoes stronger, the winters colder, and the summers hotter. We tried to imagine the world she described, but having water as our only reference, it was difficult.

Sometime in the 20’s, after the floods of 2013 began and it became clear they wouldn’t end, corporations began buying all of the land over 8,000 feet. They built their headquarters and factories on the sides of mountains, with homes for the executives in the back. Replacing things called continents, these small islands stick up here and there, but for over 90% of the world, life began to be lived on and in the water.

Great-Great Aunt Clarabelle’s generation had to adapt quickly to these changes, or be swept away. Her days as a cowgirl were over. Her parents wanted to give up, too tired and old to learn an entirely new way of life, but with two thirds of her life ahead of her, Clarabelle knew she had no choice.

After the rains started, they did not stop. The lowlands disappeared and people abandoned their lives and headed for the hills, literally. Then, the hills disappeared, followed by most mountains. In the course of a decade, the world became unrecognizable. Horseshoers turned to boatbuilding, as did carpenters, bankers, and farmers. Life became about boats, fish, and water purification tablets.

As children, we fashioned snorkels and flippers from found pipes and old tires. We dove for fun, making our way down to swim amongst submerged skyscrapers, neighborhoods, and abandoned amusement parks. Islands were fashioned from old car doors, railroad ties, and tree limbs, taking the place of land. People with money constructed floating villages, haciendas, villas; small self sustaining communities. The rest of us did what we could, inflatable inter-tubes orbiting around a sailboat nucleus, fishing lines extended. And it became the way it was.

Nothing ever dried and the sun was something spoken of by poets but never seen. Scientists predicted toes disappearing, evolving into a more useful fin, possibly in the next million years or so. Sleeping on our rafts, bobbing in the waves, we dreamt of prairies and cars and of running.

Great-Great Aunt Clarabelle adapted well. Instead of clinging to her previous life, she forged ahead, becoming the lead mermaid in Poseidon’s Great Circus. Traveling the world by submarine, she and her fellow mermaids tried to lighten their fellow human’s load with laughter and joy. Later, living in a pink houseboat, she sailed the world, eventually making her way to us when I was ten.

Original photo by Helga Ancona

Objects and Animals Crossing My Path


While on a walk yesterday, two porcupines appeared next to the path and continued on their way. That same day, a small, grey sparrow got stuck in my chimney and, after finally making his way down into the main cavern of the wood stove, freed himself, flying out the open front door. Then, while outside watering my plants, I came across page 431-432 of the book Shadowland by Peter Straub. It must have blown into my yard after coming loose from its binding and now some poor person is missing this page from their book.

Being someone who likes to read meaning into unusual findings and meetings, I found each of these encounters strange and interesting.

After googling porcupine totem, I came to the sight and read-
“Know that you are protected and that protection is always available to you. It’s time to be yourself, and trust that it is safe to be who you are. The focus here is on faith and trust and the knowing that you can move mountains with these powers.”

Later, after listening to the bird make his way down the chimney, I watched him free himself and fly outside, happily. Though birds in houses are considered bad omens by some, I’m choosing to see the freedom and joy which this little guy experienced.

Reading the page from Shadowland, it seems to be a story about a magician or a king, a man has a sparrow tucked in his shirt, characters are called names like Coleman Collins and Herbie Butter. I’d like to read the book, see what the first 430 pages were about.
The last passage on page 432 says-
“Have you ever tried?” came her voice.
“No, not projecting myself like that.”
“Then try it.”
“Right now?”

Hmmm, I’m intrigued.

So, you want to be a writer, huh?


I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis lately… Looking at all that I’ve spent years building and wondering if it’s really the direction in which I want to continue. I imagine this happens to everyone periodically, but since it’s been a while since I felt so unsure, I’m ready to feel clear and directed again and I know that’s not the way it works. Clarity can’t be rushed. Like Grace, it’s out of our control.

In my experience these times are a bit like a treasure hunt in a tunnel. You can’t really see where you’re going but you just keep following the clues, trusting that as strange new doors open, you’re still on the right path.

This most recent bout of uncertainty sprang out of getting dropped back into my life after working on another movie and realizing that for all my talk of an integrated life, it wasn’t really feeling like mine was. Spending much of my time on the road, often living happily as a gypsy, I was unsure what to do with myself once the frenetic movie pace stopped. And, no matter how tempting it was to simply jump on another show to avoid dealing with my uncertainty, I knew that wasn’t a good long term solution for myself.

I spent much of the winter feeling the same way and it was one of those empty days that led to the creation of this blog. I felt the need to write and take pictures and connect with other people and be able to bring my creative outlet with me, wherever I went. When the same emptiness hit me over the summer, I decided I needed to take it a step further and signed up for several writing classes.

So, here I am, learning about narrative, expository writing, plot, and character for the first time. Somehow I made it through 16 years of school with only the most cursory knowledge of basic writing terms. I spend hours mining memories and creating hopefully three dimensional characters only to go back and erase the whole thing. The image appears in my mind but the words fall short. I read books and stories with a new found awe for the authors who so skillfully find the words.

I find it somewhat amusing that in a need to feel connected, I chose an outlet that involves me sitting alone, in front of my computer, in my studio. But, yet again, I have to trust that for some reason this is what I am drawn to right now. Who knows if it’s the place I’ll end up or just one stepping stone on a path towards a destination I still can’t see. Maybe it will be so difficult, I will run screaming into the arms of my film career, never to wander again. Who knows? Sometimes we just have to wait and see, trusting that at some future time we will see that it was all necessary, that A led to B and then to C, that there are no mistakes, and that it is all exactly as it should be. Eek!