MAD Missives

DONATE | The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation

MISS | Andrew Sullivan

READ |  First Generation

PONDER | The Moral Bucket List

painting: WILLEM de KOONING

Inner peace is actually predicated upon a realistic approach
to the uncertainties and fears that pervade our lives.
Western psychology often teaches that if we understand the cause
of a given trauma we can move past it,
returning to the steady state we imagine is normal.  
Many who are drawn to Eastern practices hope that they can
achieve their own steady state.
They use religious techniques to quiet their minds
in the hope of rising above the intolerable feelings
that life evokes. Both strategies, at their core,
seek to escape from trauma, once and for all. 
But trauma is all pervasive. It does not go away.
It continues to reassert itself as life unfolds.
The Buddha taught that a realistic view makes all the difference.
If one can treat trauma as a fact and not a failing,
one has the chance to learn from the inevitable 
slings and arrows that come one's way. 

The Trauma of Everyday Life
~ Mark Epstein, MD

Ojai, 2012

Juana Camp

MAD Reads : The Trauma of Everyday Life, by Mark Epstein, MD

Mad Whisk Wednesdays

FUN | Ina Garten

RULES | for Healthy Eating

WHAT!? | I had no idea this was happening

FISH | Conquering the fear of cooking it

And tonight I'm making my first savory galette, inspired by these girls . . .

Pema Teaches

Other People's Dogs


My mother’s playing cards with my aunt,
Spite and Malice, the family pastime, the game
my grandmother taught all her daughters.
Midsummer: too hot to go out.
Today, my aunt’s ahead; she’s getting the good cards.
My mother’s dragging, having trouble with her concentration.
She can’t get used to her own bed this summer.
She had no trouble last summer,
getting used to the floor. She learned to sleep there
to be near my father.
He was dying; he got a special bed.
My aunt doesn’t give an inch, doesn’t make
allowance for my mother’s weariness.
It’s how they were raised: you show respect by fighting.
To let up insults the opponent.
Each player has one pile to the left, five cards in the hand.
It’s good to stay inside on days like this,
to stay where it’s cool.
And this is better than other games, better than solitaire.
My grandmother thought ahead; she prepared her daughters.
They have cards; they have each other.
They don’t need any more companionship.
All afternoon the game goes on but the sun doesn’t move.
It just keeps beating down, turning the grass yellow.
That’s how it must seem to my mother.
And then, suddenly, something is over.
My aunt’s been at it longer; maybe that’s why she’s playing better.
Her cards evaporate: that’s what you want, that’s the object: in the end,
the one who has nothing wins.

~ Louise Gluck


Who is Evan Connell?

A few weeks ago, the NYT published this article
which made me feel very nostalgic for my summer of Evan,
a summer when I was working in San Francisco during college.

I had been a student of Max Steele's, the head of the
creative writing program at UNC: Chapel Hill.
When he learned that I would be spending the summer in SF he 
made me promise him two things; that I would read the novel
Mrs Bridge, by his good friend Evan Connell, and that I would
have lunch with the author after I had done so.

I grumbled beneath my breath,
{ his synopsis of the novel didn't sound like my cup of tea}
but I promised, and eventually got around to it.
I couldn't put down the book.
I'd never read anything quite like it.
Poetry as prose.
Short, beautiful chapters depicting the shards of life
of a bewildered, unhappy, midwestern, country club mother and wife.

I actually cried at the end of the novel.
I had never done that before either.
I called Max the next day, and Evan that afternoon.

We met up at the No Name Bar in Sausalito.
He was incredibly handsome and seriously shy.
Nonetheless, we managed to talk for hours.
He asked me to join him for dinner. 
I can't remember where we went, but he regaled
me with stories about his days in Paris with Max
during the start of the Paris Review, and much
much more.

I thought I'd see Evan again, that I would track him
down in Santa Fe, sit with him for hours and listen to his stories.
I knew he was getting up there, over 80 yrs old, but with no
idea of his health, his well being.
When I read the news of his death I was so very sad.
I had let him slip away despite thinking about him often.

A beautiful, deeply talented man.
I am grateful for this remembrance from the NYT.

The Literature of Loss

Cheryl Strayed's review of Wave says it all. 
She didn't want to cry when reading the book. 
She simply thought her heart might stop.
While I never felt like crying, I did feel enthralled by the unsentimental, 
raw presentation of the author's unspeakable loss. At times the
staccato cadence of the writing, the jagged edges of her grief, 
did make my pulse race, but because it felt like such an 
authentic and unfiltered account of a crushed heart.
Nothing was dressed up. Nothing felt exaggerated.
This is another good piece about it. And this.
Deraniyagala credits Mark Epstein, MD, 
a New York City based psychotherapist, 
with helping her emerge from her deranged grief 
by encouraging her to allow the flow of memories 
of her children, husband, and parents rather than 
shutting them down and out. 
I have found his books to be extremely helpful 
during difficult times in my life, 
especially Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart
and Thoughts Without a Thinker.
The author feels that in writing her memoir she has been
able to at least memorialize her family, accepting that ultimately
she will never be able to resolve her feelings of grief.
It is simply part of who she is now . . . .

Meghan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye, a memoir about
mourning her mother's death, is beautifully rendered. O'Rourke
is also a poet and so there a passages like this that evoke an entire world ::

Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother.
Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me.
A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. 
She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. 
Waking up in a world without her is like 
waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable.

In the last few years I've read other memoirs of grief and loss.
Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights,
the first about the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, 
the second about the unexpected death of their daughter Quintana Roo.
In her hands, these stories about loss are elevated to the spiritual.

Francisco Goldman's memoir, Say Her Name, about the freak 
body surfing accident that claims the life of his young wife, 
Aura Estrada, was the first book I read when I moved to Ojai.
In a new relationship with the love of my life, I shuddered
at the thought of losing him. The more I read Goldman's
ode to Aura, the more terrified I became.
I had a fit every time my Mister would 
go for a swim in the ocean!

And still, memoirs about grief and loss compel me.
They are stripped bare of our normal, everyday
concerns and bring us closer to the reality of our 
mortality and our inevitable departures.

Next up is Epstein's latest book
The Trauma of Everyday Life ::

Western psychology teaches that 
if we understand the cause of trauma, 
we might move past it while many drawn 
to Eastern practices see meditation as a means of rising above, 
or distancing themselves from, their most difficult emotions. 
Both, Epstein argues, fail to recognize that trauma 
is an indivisible part of life and can be used as a lever for growth 
and an ever deeper understanding of change. 
When we regard trauma with this perspective, 
understanding that suffering is universal and without logic, 
our pain connects us to the world on a more fundamental level. 
The way out of pain is through it.

Afterwards, I'm taking a break and 
getting back to some fantastic fiction. 

Mexico City, 2010

MAD Missives


ADMIRE | Michelle before Barack

LISTEN | to David Whyte discuss leaving a relationship

READ | Making Sense of Water

FRET | over the unstoppable restructuring of the world's 9th largest economy

painting: ROBERT de NIRO, Sr

Who is Sally Mann?

Wonderful piece written by Sally Mann
on the impact the public's reaction to her photographs
of her family had on them then and now.

Not only is she an uncompromising artist, but with this piece
she also clearly demonstrates her intellectual depths and breadth.


WATCH | What Remains + Place

MAD Reads: Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

Completely thrilled to celebrate your love!

William, 2011

Mad Whisk Wednesdays

and I am making this tonight . . . .

MAD Watch

The Couple in the Park

A man walks alone in the park and beside him a woman walks, also alone.
How does one know? It is as though a line exists between them, like a line on
a playing field. And yet, in a photograph they might appear a married 
couple, weary of each other and of the many winters they have endured 
together. At another time, they might be strangers about to meet by accident. 
She drops her book; stooping to pick it up, she touches, by accident, his hand and
her heart springs open like a child’s music box. And out of the box comes
a little ballerina made of wood. I have created this, the man thinks; though
she can only whirl in place, still she is a dancer of some kind, not simply a
block of wood. This must explain the puzzling music coming from the trees.

~ Louise Gluck


Picasso Baby

8 year olds

Thanks for all the fun, Agnes!

MAD Missives

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Not Here To Make Friends: the unlikable female

" Perhaps, then, unlikable characters, 
the ones who are the most human, 
are also the ones who are the most alive. 
Perhaps this intimacy makes us uncomfortable 
because we don’t dare be so alive."

Sabine Heinlein: Rewriting the false narrative of childlessness

painting: ELAINE de KOONING

MAD Whisk Wednesdays

Matcha is part of my post meditation ritual
these days. So much goodness in the madness!

Goodnight, Ojai

after the rain . . . .

MAD Reads: The Last Interview + Other Conversations ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez


It was my father taught my mother
how to dance.
I never knew that.
I thought it was the other way.
Ballroom was their style,
a graceful twirling,
curved arms and fancy footwork,
a green-eyed radio.
There is always more than you know.
There are always boxes
put away in the cellar,
worn shoes and cherished pictures,
notes you find later,
sheet music you can’t play.
A woman came on Wednesdays
with tapes of waltzes.
She tried to make him shuffle
around the floor with her.
She said it would be good for him.
He didn’t want to.

~ Margaret Atwood


Goodnight, Washington DC

The Portraits of E de K

I was caught off guard by this retrospective.
Colourful, exuberant, confident portraits of presidents,
writers, artists, dancers, and friends and family of the de Koonings
were so unexpected as I wandered from the Gallery of Presidential Portraits
in to these large, fresh, expressionistic pieces.

You can easily see the influence of her husband Willem,
{ or perhaps it is the other way around } . . . .

Love a good surprise.