Gone to Mexico. Adios.

This is the first of a series of excerpts from my memoir Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, released April 2014.

Larry’s note lay on the kitchen counter when I got home from work: “Gone to Mexico. Adios.”

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This couldn’t be happening again. I smoothed the small, hot pink notepaper meant for quickie grocery lists. My fingers shook. His neat little boy handwriting—letters so small and meticulous—so unlike his laid-back attitude—made the words seem ordinary, like he’d checked with me, like I’d agreed. Just like the other three notes he’d left on the kitchen counter over the past eight months, same cryptic message with a few changes in the wording, always Mexico, always on the same multicolored spiral notepad. Those trips had lasted anywhere from a week to ten days. I’d thought that after his last escape two months earlier, that would be it; he’d get back on track, maybe finally let me know what had been bothering him.

It suddenly struck me that our white VW was missing from its usual spot beside his 1973 green Chevy van in the vacant lot next to the house. He’d been driving the smaller car ever since he started working on the van’s engine two months earlier. I hadn’t even noticed. So would he be sleeping in the VW?

Or had he finally taken that surfer pal’s offer to stay at his Ensenada beach house? The guy had been inviting him for years; surfers down at his favorite spot in San Clemente were always inviting him on surf trips. They just wanted to hang with him. Everybody wanted to hang with him. He never went. He hated staying with other people, hated to be obligated to anyone.

After the shock of his first unexpected departure, I started thinking that maybe that’s exactly what he needed, time alone on a surfboard down Mexico way. Out in the ocean, catching waves, with that occasional brush with a dolphin he treasured so much—this was where he found his spiritual center. Maybe he’d finally grieve the loss of his mother. She died right before he retired, which was when he planned on spending more time with her. I knew that was a big deal for him. He felt guilty. Not that he said anything about it. No signs of grief, even at the funeral—well, except for convulsively squeezing my hand. The shrink told me he was probably depressed and advised lots of loving understanding. As far as our seeking counseling together, Larry told me I had the problem, not him.

I thought back to our confrontation after his last defection, two months earlier. Not that much different from the other times.

“Okay, so are you finally going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why do you keep doing this?”

“Doing what?”

We went back and forth like this for a bit, with me becoming more and more agitated because of his stonewalling. This, of course, just made him calmer and me crazier until I stormed off. This was how most of our confrontations went. But then he’d come through with a self-effacing sweetness and life would continue.

I glanced at the note. “Adios.” I felt my jaw tighten.

Amazon Review:

This delicious memoir has an emotional sweetness that spares no one. The story sweeps from apartheid era South Africa to picaresque Laguna Beach, and then back again as vibrant, flawed, and loving characters, including the dogs move forward. Each has a gift for life. The writer gives all the characters their say, and a bit of respect in most cases. It is the writers attention to detail that brings each of them to life, and thus each has roots in the story. She does this while maintaining a running drama of the mundane and erotic interruptions that pepper the narrative. Rossandra is such an exciting writer. She has an amazing command of the language and her emotional pitch of tragedy and triumph is sublime.

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I is For Insects

I is For Insect–Praying Mantis

My favorite insect. Pictured below is one of 2,000 species in the mantis order of insects. Looks like a little alien. Praying mantis can be found in all parts of the world with mild winters and sufficient vegetation during the late spring to late summer months.

The praying mantis is the oldest symbol of God. For the Khoi (African Bushmen), it’s a manifestation of God come to earth: “the voice of the infinite in the small,” a divine messenger. “Mantis” is the Greek word for “prophet” or “seer,” a being with spiritual or mystical powers. In the Arabic and Turkish cultures a mantis points pilgrims to Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic world. In France, it’s believed that if you are lost, the mantis points the way home. “Follow Mantis” means putting that core aspect of yourself, your foundation of Spirit, at the helm and let it direct your intellect and ultimately your life.

Sounding a Note of Brotherhood

The Santa Ana winds have been in town for a couple of days. Raymond Chandler once described them as “those hot dry [winds] that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.” They also make a mess of my yard, scattering bamboo twigs, bougainvillea blossoms, and the leaves and wild figs from the vine covering the twenty-foot wall I share with Bill next door. Other than having to clean all this up, I love the Santa Anas. They make me feel alive and sexy and bring to life one or more of the ten Soleri hand-built wind bells hanging around the yard.

These works of art come from Arcosanti, a utopian village in Cordes Junction, Arizona created by the famous artist and architect, Paolo Soleri. The sale of the bells goes to support his pursuit of lean alternatives to urban sprawl, to finding better ways for everyone to live in harmony. People come from around the world to study with him and to buy his pieces. My largest bell, at 61 inches from the top loop to the bottom of the two “fins,” is made of brass. It has a sound that could call medieval villagers to prayer. But it was one of the smaller bells, hand-carved of ceramic that called to me yesterday.I was sitting in my writing studio, deeply engrossed in an edit of my memoir, Loveyoubye, when a gust of wind caught the bell and it clanged. Just once. I stopped mid sentence. The sound, somewhere between a cowbell and one of those German beer hall bells, sounded clear and pure like never before. It filled my brain, shoving out everything else that was in there. I stared into space. The note lingered in my head then carried me to thoughts of Billie, my dear spiritual mentor, who passed away a couple of days earlier. I could see her, sitting in her chair speaking of the wisdom of the ages, excluding none of the religions or philosophies, instead expanding upon them, revealing the heart of each, beyond the form, beyond the dogma. How it is up to each one of us to adopt a loving heart and to consciously become receptive to that greater truth that unites us all. Brotherhood. She sounded a note so clear and strong that a path was blazed for others to follow, just like each one of us must do. Like Paolo Soleri, a man of vision and dedication is doing. His bell reminded me of this today.