Mourning, Celebrating, Remembering, & a New Name.

When I read in the paper last week that most of the humpback whales were heading north I felt a pang of melancholy-a bit like when my children left home. I remember mornings when the kids were little. I would look at them a minute before I woke them up. My heart would fill. Then when I wasn’t yelling at them because they couldn’t find their books, or homework, or didn’t take the dogs for a walk, I’d watch them interact: Alice methodical and prepared trying to help (or discipline) Anna for dawdling & playing. I would laugh because they were so consistently opposite and interesting.

Almost every morning the past couple of weeks I’ve watched the whales frolic out front while I drank my morning coffee. Who said you can’t weigh a ton and be graceful! The humpback whales are acrobats of the sea, breaching, sky hopping,and flob tailing. Yesterday afternoon I watched with glee as one flob tailed for about 1/2 hour. Over and over, at least 20 times,(I lost count) she lifted her massive butt into the air and crashed her gorgeous obsidian flukes that glinted in the sunlight onto the water. Voyeurism is exhausting.

The male humpbacks are the Pavarottis and Domingos of the sea.They sing these eerie, beautiful, and complex songs that are said to last up to half an hour and are repeated continuously for hours. Ten or so years ago when my daughter, Anna, got married in Maui her husband, Dave, I think it was, was swimming and heard them singing. When he told us I plunged into the warm water and listened. For a minute or so I heard it; a brief U Tube concert. Next year I will be ready with some snorkeling gear so I can hear a whole song.

Still on singing. Sitting in front of me on the beach a few days ago were two teenage girls. One of them sang for the other who listened intently, nodding her head in approval. This kid sang bluesy Mexican tunes with Amy Winehouse gusto. I was happy to just sit and watch her appreciate her own voice enough to share it.

Puerto Vallarta is partying again. The catholics here mourn during Semana Santa, the week leading up to the Crucifixion then everyone parties for another week -for Pascua, to celebrate the Resurrection. How could you not applaud the concept of rising from the dead? The beach is a giant swath of color, music, dancing, cooking and mayhem.

When Sophie and I were slogging through the surf Thursday, I thought about the summer vacations me,my mom and her friends-all sexy, vibrant women, took to Lake Erie. We stayed at The Village, a motel on the beach that had a series of weathered clapboard cottages with tiny kitchens. But the real draw of The Village was its nightclub with a large dance floor and a full-on orchestra: trumpets, saxophones, trombones,drums, bass,a piano…These women LOVED to dance.

I have a vague recollection of Smiley, the orchestra leader’s Irish charm. But it is my mom who would never forget him. You see, she had his child.

I remember that trip as being a fun one. I was 9.Me,Mom,her friend Tacy, and my dog Niki, drove Mom’s Ford Skyliner 2500 miles to Santa Monica, CA. There are no pictures of Mom on that trip but I remember her wearing loose mu mu type dresses. She had naturally large breasts so the combination kept her swollen belly well hidden. The day she gave birth, Tacy and I were at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. Tacy sobbed so loud during the movie, Shane,that I was embarrassed. Of course I know now that she probably didn’t even notice the sad movie; she was crying for her friend who was giving birth to a daughter she would never see.

Mary Leslie Sten,pumping with irreverent Irish blood was given to a Swedish family. The reason, I found out when I was 40 something; when mom’s dark secret burst forth, was that Mom refused to see her child grow up condemned and ridiculed for being illegitimate. She alone would pay the price of her own sin.

There are pictures of Tacy and me and one with me and Tonto. When we left Pennsylvania I had great hopes of seeing Roy Rogers,Dale Evans or Gene Audrey but was happy with Tonto dressed in full Indian regalia. I took souvenirs back to all my friends. I would rather have had a sister.

At 11 o’clock on Good Friday, my friend, Laurel and I joined the procession of Christ to Calvary. The route here goes from Woolworths to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church over part of the mountainside. This is no easy trek. It involves two very steep hills difficult to climb in sturdy shoes carrying a bag of groceries much less barefoot lugging a heavy wooden cross-not to mention the Roman guard hitting and shoving you because you aren’t moving fast enough.

Laurel and I caved after the first hill. We took the lowland route directly to the church steps. Waiting for the procession we had a conversation with a family from Walnut Creek, CA, whose kids go to a Catholic school, about some new commandments the pope has made. The woman said she wasn’t a particularly good catholic but she didn’t think that he could do that-that they were probably amendments to the commandments. Amendments to commandments. Whoa. Maybe he has finally listed pedophilia as a bad thing.I read somewhere recently that he said women should be more like women than men or something to that effect. Fine with me. Keep your penis but I’m serious about equal wages and having control over my body. I marched the soles off my shoes in the 70s so my daughters and granddaughters would have choice and equality in every aspect of their lives. Personally I think that even the gentle Christ would have a difficult time with some of the rigid rules the Pope imposes on women.

Last week I got a surprise email from Jon Hammond,Tehachapi’s unofficial historian and expert on flora & fauna. He honored me by giving me the name Tavi Nomo’o, which he said, means Sun Woman in the Kawaiisu language, the area’s indigenous Indians. He said the name reflects my bright spirit and my current sunny surrounding. How sweet is that!

It’s Easter Sunday. The church bells are ringing. If I hurry I’ll have time to put on my new Easter outfit with the matching shoes and sombrero & catch the 11 o’clock service.

God Bless Us Everyone. -Tiny Tim or maybe Timmy. I can’t remember.

“It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.”
-Garrison Keillor

Paz en tierra.
Ruby Tavi Nomo’o

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