I wrote this a few months back, but didn’t feel like trying to tweak tenses etc., so please consider it back-dated for late March. Also I’m sorry for redundant pictures—I’ve been experimenting with newly acquired Adobe Lightroom, which has been heady and amazing, but also has somewhat broken my brain re: seeing pictures properly, so I’ve (as ever tbh) erred on the side of excess.
Rama and I haven’t had a lot of nature time hunkered down in the Hubs. We (nearly) daily hit the beach in one form or another, but Huntington beaches are the converse of the rocky-coved Nor-Cal coast, with its jagged black descents, craggy pines, wind-pruned chaparral, and untended tangles of asters, yarrow, buckwheats, and sage.
It’s its own kind of beautiful here—shimmery white expanses of flat powdery sand, the geometric fascination of palm trees—but it never feels remote. Even now in the off-season (we’ve actually had some rain!) it’s the usual menagerie of leathery-skinned beach cruisers, Surrey-dinging tourists, sand-snoozing transients, every age and skill level of surfer, shower-rinsing kids, chiseled bronze volley-ballers, puffy-lipped h-wives oceanfront wining, freedom-flexing pre-teens clustered in clouds of fruity vape—I could go on (and on). It’s a peep panoply, which is its own form of entertainment, but the beach here doesn’t have that escaped solitary soul-salve feeling.
My mom keeps informing me in wide-eyed weighty tones that I am “an empath.” Writing this thing I gamely googled the term, and yeah, possibly.
A lot of the listed traits resonate, though not all. The article(?) says that empaths are “prone to illness, disease, and physical pain”—I’m not, at least not so far. I’ve heretofore had a pretty robust constitution—to my displeasure as a kid. I longed to be delicate and fey like Maddy, and get to miss school, but my annual check-ups were generally wrapped up with a hearty “why you’re healthy as a horse!” (metaphorical) slap on the ass—very rough-hewn and peasant-like I was.
Though thinking on it again I did come down with a seemingly endless stream of colds during my early-mid twenties, an era marked by a great deal of stress: familial hardships, shitty jobs, an often turbulent relationship, and overarching life path angst. All that worry played merry hell with my immune system no doubt—it’s strange and a little sad to look back, but I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush. There were so many gifts and so much sweetness. I think the hardest thing was the thorned and pathless wood feeling, but I held my own hand and made my way through it. I’m so thankful for now, and though I know I can take some credit—that of doing the un-glam work and trying very hard to be true—mostly I’m just humbled. I pray for as many more days of the good flesh continuing as can be given, and to stay grateful as change comes and continues to come. Anyway these years I suffer per annum no more than a handful of snotty days.
And I don’t think I’m too sensitive to physical pain either—am always barging around bruising and scraping myself and not even noticing. I do get lower back twinges when something really stressful happens, but happily regular running has strengthened my core enough that I am no longer the owner of a “bad back.”
Some of the stuff in the article seems dramatic: I don’t have panic attacks in crowds or anything like that…though I don’t seek them out too much either. I find mob-vibes across-the-board repulsive—even nice mobs can take on a darkening froth. I enjoy going to baseball games and being reactionary and shouty and all that, but I like that everyone has a tiered seat and people aren’t likely to jostle or ooze into my bubble too much (side-note: I cannot stand it when someone in the row behind rests their feet on the empty seatback right next to my head—it makes me want to literally dismember them).
Seated concerts are very luxurious and classy, but for lots of more intimate (and preferable) gigs that’s not the set-up. With those shows I prefer to be on the performer-proximate outskirts (I usually gravitate stage-right frontish—in school lectures I tended to put myself second-to-fourth row far stage-left).
The Bay Area has loads of big group events—in the East Bay I’m thinking of the monthly Art Murmurs, the Warriors Parades, the Women’s Marches, and in SF Bay to Breakers, Pride, the Castro Halloween, the Folsom Street Fair, etc. ad infinitum—but I never felt compelled to attend any of them. I was scheduled to work all those weekends (the restaurant work week is its own thang), but also they sounded like a massive pain in the ass.
I did (at long last—I’d for years drooled over the newspaper-listed line-ups) stumble through Hardly Strictly Bluegrass last year—right into Abigail Washburn’s set. I was doing my Golden Gate Park run while Rama and Tim surfed and could only watch a couple songs, but it seemed very pleasant and chill—I’d give attendance a shot.
I definitely dislike being around a bunch of drugged-up people—my ex’s band had played one or two “Burning Man Decompression” shows that were just blegh—so many dilated pupils and animal ears. I think I’d hate Burning Man proper—on top of the drugs, the heat, the swanning emoting hippies, and now infiltration of tech scum, the steampunk aesthetic alone makes my skin crawl. (Much opinion, much aside.)
Back to the “article”—ah I just remembered it’s called a listicle! hah!—this one warrants picking apart:
5. Mood Swings, Unpredictable And Needy
They can experience extreme highs and lows which makes them unpredictable in behavior at the best of times. One minute they can be happy and the next minute very sad and withdrawn which is not always the result of how they actually feel but what they have picked up in others, this can be confusing let alone depressing.
They can also be very demanding of attention, be it for good reasons or not. If they feel they are not being heard they will act out and come across as needy, even narcissistic, although they would seriously question and oppose the latter. Just because one may have strong empathy at some point in time does not mean they are not akin to being so overwhelmed with it that they fall heavily towards narcissism.
I once read in a birth chart (on Cafe Astrology, which is the shit if you haven’t peeped it, as is the recently recommended-to-me-by-Emz Astro app The Pattern) that, with my Cancer moon, I am “subject to moods.” Such a bullseye—moods definitely move through me. But I wouldn’t say I experience “extreme highs and lows”—my fluctuations are much more muted. Spongeing up the energies of others is, and has been, a big hard thing for me. It’s still nearly impossible for me to be around people I care about when they’re in a thundercloud state and not myself blackly amass. My mom and dad both have big moods, and I think I learned from that start to retreat into my own interior spaces—and secret gardens raise their own brambly walls.
We outgrow some coping mechanisms, but I still love my own company and sometimes only my own. (Case in point writing like this.) Rama and I are very much on the same wavelength, and this is very lucky for me. We’re mostly a couple of chirpy little birds together—or simultaneously, contentedly existing in our own far-off airy head-spaces—and it’s such a relief after my last (extremely energetically incompatible) relationship to now have my own lightness flashed back at me in another. To put it another way, being around Rama doesn’t make me tired. It’s like being with myself.
Not to say it’s all uninterrupted cheer—obviously. One aspect of experiencing other people’s moods is picking up on and being affected by grumpiness even when it isn’t being overtly expressed. Occasionally Rama will be in some mild funk he doesn’t even himself recognize (Warriors playoff losses over the seasons, for example), and I’m still figuring out how to navigate in the times when it’s not plausible to take physical space. It’s not really fair, I recognize, admonishing Rama not to feel a certain way or I will too, but it’s the nature of my beast. Maybe also it’s sometimes constructive to deliver a sharp kick in the ass when someone is in an unconscious snit and is failing to be present in and grateful for some lovely experience. (I actually appreciate being reminded to check in with myself when I’m the party-pooping grouch in question.)
O and I’m not needy—am more of a cave-woman when in pain, a wounded animal putting itself away in a den. Which, friends, I’m sorry I’ve been kind of MIA lately with the Poundo stuff.
The reason I started off with this woo-woo empath stuff (that will have my dad’s eyes rolling so hard they might disconnect themselves) comes back to the nature point. To quote again the listicle:
[Empaths] enjoy being outdoors, amongst the forest or high in the mountains and are content being connected to the land and will often escape from the busy world to rejuvenate their senses.
“Amongst the forest” indeed—cue my own eye roll. It’s true though—escaping to nature is what kept me sane through my eon of customer service employment, and though I’m thank all gods currently freed from that, I do deeply miss being routinely immersed in wild and spacious places.
I have been with Rams been doing (many green binned) loads of yard work at my parents’ place; he’s been coaching me on pruning, and god do I love its meticulous and meditative gratifications (and have delighted also in the subsequent leaf-out). I even do it in my dreams, a feeling pleasantly reminiscent of mushroom-hunting all day and then dream-hunting all night.
The garden hours have definitely helped assuage the nature itch, but I was very excited to accept Rama’s folks’ invitation to come hang with them in the So-Cal desert after the tennis finished.
I love rain and I love its flowers, and had been slavering over the spectacle of a Super Bloom since the incipience of Ram’s and my So-Cal visit. We had planned (and are planning) a desert trip for Ram’s and my mom’s birthdays, and were pleased to meet with R’s ma and Dave and sneak a peek.
I was also excited because I had a new orange dress and a dope new sunhat (my beloved straw Stetson finally popped out the wire from its frayed front brim), both of which I imagined would blend beautifully with the desert palette.
It’s weird maybe to approach wardrobe with a camo-minded bent, but I really like to match.
Not an accident.
I just love it.
Maddy and I decided that before Ram’s and my Bay Area departure we’d have a couple eves of feasting—first at my newish job-spot Penrose (I’d been dying to try the flatbread), and then on what was supposed to be R’s and my last night in Oakland (we ended up staying five more days) we’d go to Maddy’s groovy new city workplace and dress fancy and drink amazing cocktails and eat cheese fondue. I’m stupid and didn’t get any proper pics—but I looooved my retro venue-perfect outfit and sent Emma these pics from the bathroom:
Sigh, I love clothes, and dressing for things and places. Sometimes I want to catalog fun outfits better, but I’m already so terrible about keeping up. Dailiness continues to be my watchword and my grapple.
We left for the desert midday on Saint Paddy’s. I jumped out of bed that morning like it was Christmas but better, tied a green bandana around my neck and caught Franz in the hallway. I didn’t have my contacts in yet and squintily scanned him to make sure he didn’t have any green on, then gave him a healthy pinch. He exclaimed and made to pinch me back, and when I pointed at my kerchief he turned and ran down the corridor. The next thing I heard was Britani’s yell of surprised pain, and then Franz’s responding one (dumb dumb hadn’t put on green before he pinched her). Ah Irish mischief! Rama had very Rama-ly not pinched me when I was sleeping even though I’d been green-free, but I got it back a little later while taunting Franz in the kitchen. Franz tired of my gloating and lunged and pinched—hard—which is extremely against the rules and really bothered me. Justice works in strange ways I guess. (And speaking of Saint Patrick’s hijinks I want to immortalize a Maddyism—we’d had a rambunctious pinching spree one 3/17 and were itching for more. We looked to the cats and Maddy observed, “The cats are wearing their eyes.” I loved that—it gets stuck in my head sometimes.)
After the coffee Ramz and I kicked off the day with our patented surf/run combo (I’m nervous to get back in the agua in HB after my stingray encounters, though I’ll nut up soon), got back home and blasted The Chieftains and The Pogues and made sandwiches and showered and packed and we were awf.
The drive wasn’t bad—no more than a couple hours—and Rama’s folks were still watching the final when we rolled into Indian Wells. We yelped a gastropub called Eureka! and split a beet burger with a side of mac and cheese balls, plus beer—it’s been fun sampling from the Southerly cerveza smorgasbord (how lucky to be a suds-lover during this time of craft brewing renaissance).
We stopped by TJs for some provisions and drove into the La Quinta parking lot at balmy pink dusk,
air heavy with with the scent of orange blossoms (Rama, to my dismay/pleasure ripped down a branch for our room).
Had a nice long chatty din with Dave and Kamala at one of the hotel’s restaurants—the fish tacos were good—and then retired back to our respective rooms with the plan to order in our early breakfasts and depart for a Joshua Tree day at 9:00 AM.
Ramz and I split at 7:00 a simple but yum poached egg toast rye toast plate and sipped some spot-hitting silver-potted coffee, then zipped over to Kragen so he could scan the code on the check engine light that had flashed up the previous evening (was the “cam position sensor”—not urgent), and then we bopped over to Target so I could buy a cheap light bra for my stupidly see-through orange dress (I’d only packed a black bra—whoops). They had next to nothing for me—I almost bought a set of white and nude pre-teen XL starter bras—but I found just one weird peachy-beige grown-up slippery bathing-suit-material bralette in a workable size.
Dave and Kamala’s car was some cramped sporty thing—the rental company had messed up—so we piled into Rama’s wagon and headed northeast. We’d decided to enter through the West entrance and view the blooming Cottonwood zone on our way out.
There was a long line of cars at the entry gate, and the hordes dogged us on our drive through the park. Nature-y: yes. Escape-y: no. I was, as too often seems to be the case, experiencing some ill-timed PMS (when it comes to vaycays and special occasions it’s like I’m always either actively bleeding or about to be—was straight up OTR at my own wedding, though better off than Madz who was pre-menstrual and bloated for hers). Between the crowds and the lack of sun-filtering clouds—the stark overhead light was so harsh for photos—I was battling some raunchy irritation and felt very much like I wanted to climb under one of those strange flinstony rocks. The landscape felt like being on another planet, or under the ocean, and I longed for some auroral or twilit rosy softness.
We scoped out campgrounds on our drive through the park and noted sites on our map—I was thinking obsessively about how badly I wanted to wake up in the park to get some dawn shots, and where would be directionally best to put our camping selves for golden hour and sunset. Our recon reinforced that camp reservations are a far-in-advance must (I’d previously had that impression on the reservation website)—every campground was packed to the gills, and on a Monday, blegh.
Rama was hellbent on spotting a Bighorn sheep, but we didn’t come upon any—or much fauna at all really. There were probably too many people around.
We did manage to spy an empty picnic table and I flew from the car to claim it (I was hangry too).
T-Jahs provided with peppered smoked salmon and spicy brown mustard, unexpected cheddar and creamy goat cheese, and of course the fig olive crackers (my dad’s fave also), plus other goodies. As Lauren says, #meyerspicnichard—and Romz does too.
The food definitely helped level me out, but it was a struggle for me most of the day quashing my inner trumminess and trying to be engaged and grateful. Those premenstrual hormones are no joke—it’s a curious consciousness watching such a distinctly chemical mind-alterer, feeling both apart from it and yet compelled to channel its surges.
One soothing thing was reading the park brochure, learning what to call the wispy green brooms of palo verde, the spindly flamed ocotillo on its vivid backdrop of blue, and the iridescent cholla—glowily haloed in all angles of light.
It was satisfying also watching as we proceeded east the shift from Mojave to Colorado desert, the shadows lengthening on the flattening earth, the stacking rocks and anthropomorphic Joshua trees giving way to subtler expanses of jumbled rubble and delicate sun-bleached flowers.
This was the presumable superbloom, but we were all by that time waning and sun-wrung, ready to head back to our cool rooms. I floated to Ramz the idea of his and my doubling back to the Cottonwood zone for some next-day sunrise shots of the flowers, but redundant distances threaten to break his navigating brain, which I get and respect. Plus there was the prospect of another springtime visit where we could be savvier about time and space, putting ourselves in the right spots in the right lights.
We got back to La Quinta late afternoon and retired to our respective rooms. Ramz and I had a beer and a bubbly, respectively, then headed a few minutes down the road to some open space Dave had recommend for some sunset photos.
The orange intensity of it had already descended below the encircling ridges, but the moon was on the rise and the balmy air was still blushed and glowing.
We had another temperate outdoor dinner, this time in the courtyard of the hotel’s Twenty6 restaurant. I had a beet, goat cheese, spinach salad that was overdressed but yum—its quinoa was crunchy, something it might be fun to try at home.
Dave, Rams, and I planned to set some alarms and meet at the car pre-light for a quick sunrise walkabout of the previous evening’s spot.
This was a really cool “spider”—actually an Opiliones called a “desert harvestman,” also also called (like other species) a “daddy” or “granddaddy longlegs.” Fascinatingly not an actual arachnid, these have an undivided body, one pair of eyes, and don’t spin webs—they scavenge dead insects.
We got back in time to breakfast before Dave and Kamala had to head to the airport—outside their room Ram spotted a hummingbird perched on an ocotillo. Something about its sentinel vibe prompted me to peer into the nearby hedge of orange flowering vine—and what did I spy but a tiny nest housing two impossibly exquisite baby hummers! We even got to see their feeding! My mom had hummingbirds nest in her backyard for several years (until Franz over-pruned the bougainvillea), and she had described to me the way the mother put her long sharp beak practically down the the throats of her open-mouthed “sword-swallowing” offspring. It really was incredible.
Twenty6 again for brekky, where they kindly split a nicely spicy huevos rancheros for Kamala and me to share—Ram had his own, and D a sausage scramble.
We said our goodbyes, and then Ram and I returned to the room to get our own poop in a group. We decided not to take the more roundabout Anzo Borrego route home (it would add two hours to the drive), but to get our plant fix instead at the botanical garden on our way out of town.
And what did we spy there but another bird nest! Ah Spring!
We capped it all off with an icy beer,
then made the drive home to the cool wet refreshment of an encompassing late afternoon marine layer.
Lovely desert to lovely sea (and around again this coming week), and then next, in a bit, on to lovely mountains. O California.