Monday, August 30, 2010


George’s favorite part of our back yard is the pile of dirt that sits in the un-landscaped section of the yard, where he likes to lie on the uppermost peak and survey his kingdom. He may be cute, white, and fluffy - the epitome of a “bitch dog” (my husband’s term for the breeds that women tend to own)- but on that dirt pile he exerts his true self – his elemental self. He is one who likes to lie in the sun, in the dirt, observing everything.

As I watered some plants this weekend, I watched him and wondered, if I were to determine my elemental self, what would it be? It’s difficult to decide – I mean, I’m talking about who I am deep down, past all the desires and the Joneses and superficial everyday needs. If I had one moment when my auto-pilot kicked in and made me do one thing or be one thing, what would my subconscious lead me to?

I’m not talking about being with family or the basic needs of life. (It would be a cop-out to say "family" or "my kids" or "my husband.") I’m talking about who each of us is deep down, as an individual. Maybe you can think of it in a stranded-on-a-desert-island situation. What one thing, one element, one situation or location, would satisfy you?

As for me, I’m not sure. I don’t want to be too quick to decide my one elemental necessity - who I am at the core. At one point in my life I would have said it is being in the Theatre, and at another I would have said I’d just need a sketchbook and a piece of charcoal to be happy.

But right now, if I close my eyes and get right to it and let my auto-pilot take over, I don’t think elemental-me would be doing anything. I picture myself in a cozy room in front of a roaring fireplace, with a huge picture window looking out through the rain, across to a view of the ocean. If I’d open the window, I could hear the surf and smell the lightly falling rain.

I could interpret that by saying that at my core, I want to be relaxed, safe, cozy, and connected to nature. But it’s more than that. When I’m actually in a place like that, it’s when I’m most creative and I become full of possibility. Maybe that’s my elemental self – focused on creativity and possibilities. Hmmm. Something for me to ponder.

I would love to hear where, or to what, your Auto-Pilot would take you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bats and Burros

Far beyond the lights of the Strip, far past the glittery showgirls and bejeweled Elvises (Elvi?), west of Las Vegas, past the last row of cookie cutter houses, there is a little-known gem that brings together two of my favorite things: Theatre and Nature. It might seem difficult to imagine the two fitting together very well – after all, sequins don’t often go with burros and wild horses. But Spring Mountain Ranch’s Super Summer Theatre gives just that.

To get to the outdoor theater, get on Charleston Boulevard and head west. Eventually the houses will turn into cacti, and you’ll enter a spectacular valley of red mountains. You’re driving at dusk, so the red rocks are hazy, backlit by the setting sun. In your backseat are the required items for the evening: a picnic blanket, a bottle of wine, maybe some fried chicken and pasta salad, and a sweater for when it gets cooler.

The tiny outdoor stage is almost rickety in its simplicity – the actors sweat in basement dressing rooms – and the theatre-goers spread out on a huge lawn to eat together in a picnic-audience before the show. Before the sun is completely down, the show begins.

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what the show is. Or if it’s any good. I mean, if you get bored you can just lie back on your blanket and look at the show Nature puts on nightly; out here, the stars shine more brightly, uninhibited – no longer upstaged – by the lights of the city.

When there is still a little light in the sky, the bats come out. They flutter in patterns above the picnickers, making some people marvel at the “birds” that are flying around. During the show, wild burros often bray nearby, usually during the quietest moments of the plot, when the guy kisses the girl, or while an ingenue delivers a wistful speech. “Eeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” It’s not the most romantic of interruptions, but it sure is entertaining.

There are outdoor amphitheatres all over the country, and I urge you to find one near you. I’ll never forget seeing Richard Harris play King Arthur in Camelot in an outdoor theater in Indianapolis years ago. There, the bugs were attracted to his spotlight, and his ad-libbed swats at them brought unexpected laughter. Live theatre always has its moments, but adding nature to it makes it even better.

There are a few more weeks, and a couple more shows, left in Super Summer Theatre’s lineup this summer. Check them out!

Monday, August 16, 2010

AKA The Happy Humping Dog

I’m annoyed at men today. Well, not all men. I’m not annoyed by the ones in the trucks with the oversized tires who cut me off in traffic, or the loud men on cell phones who cut in front of me in line at the bank as if I’m invisible. Today, I’m angry at the man who hit George because George was humping his dog.

Well, “hit” may be a little too strong a word – “swat” is probably a more accurate description of what the man did. George had been following around this man’s large labrador retriever all morning (why was this breed on the small dog side?) and had loved mounting her. She was oblivious to his attraction.

There was nothing to worry about. George was humping the side of her knee – no chance of pregnancy (George is fixed anyway). Nothing for the man to worry about except his own testosterone-filled ego.

I’ve seen this type of man at the dog park many times; he’s often a homophobe. He’s the type who instantly gets upset if a dog mounts his dog. There used to be a military guy at the park who always yelled obscenities when his male dog was mounted; he was obviously freaked out by the idea of any guy-on-guy activity.

It makes me think that people should have to take a dog behavior test before being allowed to adopt a dog. These men need to realize it’s about dominance when a dog mounts – not about sex. Why else would George hump her knee? He’s not that stupid. And speaking of stupid, I was told today that the man who hit George freaks out when his dog eats ice, because he says she pees inside the house when she eats ice. Hmmm. Interesting logic. Once again, where is that test?

And while we’re at it, can we require people to take childrearing tests before they get pregnant? That would make the world a better place, too.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Good Medicine

I’m writing this from our back patio right now, while I’m considering going inside to get a sweater or a blanket. And it’s August. In Las Vegas. And it’s all because of the storm that blew in this weekend.

I first heard it during the night, when the rain on our patio roof woke me up. It was perfect – just loud enough to let me know it was there, but not so bad to keep me awake. I fell back to sleep, cozy in bed.

Today I woke to the smell of the rain and cooler morning temps, although the sky above our house was bright and sunny again. That’s how Vegas is – storms often pass through but only show themselves to sections of the city instead of the valley as a whole.

Today I was feeling a little down; my week had been stressful, and my husband was working on what is usually our day off together. So when I heard a few drops outside again I immediately turned off the TV (I was about to sink into an afternoon of mind-numbing Hallmark Channel movies), and went outside with George. The wind was picking up a little, and one whole section of the sky was dark grey while the other part was blue with white fluffy clouds. The few raindrops on the roof sounded like popcorn.

George jumped onto the back of the outdoor sofa where I sat, and I leaned my head against him. My heart wasn’t feeling great. Recent stress was causing the symptoms of my MVP (an annoying heart condition) to flare up a little, and my heart felt tight. In fact, it felt worse than normal. I sat and tried to make my stress go away by taking deep breaths like in meditation. Focus on the breath, ten counts in and twenty counts back out. It didn’t seem to loosen the anxiety in my chest but I did it a few more times anyway.

Then I realized I shouldn’t be sitting under the patio; I should be out in the rain – should get out in nature and let it fall down on me. So I walked around the yard a little bit, raised my face to the sky in time to get a raindrop right in my eye, and I wondered why raindrops aren’t dangerous, since they fall from so far. I liked feeling the rain touch me.

Soon the rain came down more quickly, the drops big and fat. I headed for the sofa again and pulled George onto my lap to get warm during the sudden chilly wind. He and I sat and watched the downpour – it was indeed a downpour – the type of rain that brings people to windows to look outside, the kind that sounded like tympani were being played on our patio roof.

After about ten minutes or so of watching the rain fall in a diagonal toward where we sat, it gradually calmed down again, and slowly the sounds of our neighborhood resumed. A few birds flew by, chirping. A car drove by on a nearby street, its tires sounding wet on the pavement. The rain had stopped everything, had forced all to stop, to sit and observe.

And I realized my heart wasn’t tight anymore. The rain had taken away the tension. See, now, why I love the rain?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Get out your dream dictionaries.

When George dreams, sometimes his legs twitch as if he’s running. Sometimes he’s so into his dream that he barks in his sleep or his face muscles twitch. I, too, have had some strange experiences with dreams, from walking in my sleep, being conscious in my dreams, and even seeing things in my sleep. Weird stuff, I assure you.

My earliest memory of sleepwalking (I only did it twice in my lifetime) was when I walked into the living room around midnight, after having had fish for dinner, and told my Mom, “I want more fish.” She didn’t feed me, but guided me back to bed. As an eight-year-old, I thought it was cool to have walked in my sleep.

As a teenager, I learned to extend my dreams when they were really good. If I woke up right at the good part, I was able to go back to sleep several times, each time allowing the dream to pick up where it left off. A handy trick.

But the most interesting dream skill I have is that I can insert myself into my dreams, when necessary. It started when I was very small, when I had the normal scary monster dreams, and I was chased into a corner. As I ran, I told myself, “Wake up! All you have to do is wake up and this dream will be over!” I was always able to wake myself up before it got too scary. I never thought of this skill as anything special until I told a friend about it. He called it “lucid dreaming.”

This skill is sometimes annoying, when my conscious inserts itself into a dream I could enjoy. Why, oh why, can’t I just relax and enjoy a dream in which I am having a romantic evening with Hugh Jackman? Instead, in the dream I get an overwhelming sense of guilt, and it usually ends with dream-me trying to tell my real-life husband that I didn’t cheat. But in my dream I did, so dream-me gets confused, trying to explain that real-life me didn’t do anything.

Along the same lines, after my Mom died, I loved the dreams in which I was in my old house, sometimes even with her. During my dream, I always told myself to keep dreaming it as long as possible - to enjoy being there while I could.

The weirdest part of my dreaming is when I see things in my sleep. I often open my eyes during the night and see things floating in the room. I know I’m sleeping, so I sit up and blink and try to get the image to go away; eventually it does and I go back to sleep, knowing that I’m imagining things, dreaming. Recently, I saw a huge tall white shape float from the doorway to the window. I know it was my mind moving the large strip of light that was barely reflecting on the white door. But I also saw a floating monkey head that went in the same direction two times. Who knows what that meant – I need a trip to the zoo? I watch too much Family Guy?

And then there are my reoccurring dreams. All my life I’ve dreamed that my teeth are falling out, and they fill up my open hands as they fall. I often dream that I am in a foreign country and want to go to a show but cannot find the theatre, or it’s my last night there and I forgot to go to a show. I also dream over and over about exotic places that I could swear I’ve been before. One very frustrating dream is that I’m trying to dial a phone number and keep hitting the wrong buttons, over and over. And I dream about George – that the building is falling down and I have to save him.

But most recently, old high school friends from facebook are appearing in my dreams, people I haven’t seen in years but are in my dream plots because I see their names or pictures on facebook. Recently I dreamed that Candie Beaty and I coincidentally bought houses next to each other in London, that Karey Baker and I accidentally fell asleep in a Starbucks and hid behind the couches when the workers opened the store in the morning, and that I went to a wedding with Glenn Leone. Facebook is having a weird influence on my life.

Anyway, interpret as you wish.