Sausalito Seadogs

Lent is upon us — actually it’s after us, if you want to be technical. Mardi Gras has come and gone, but the opportunity to consider what to give up for Lent is still here. It’s never too late to start this practice of renunciation, which I still find interesting to consider, think about, and take on, even though I’m no more Catholic than the sea dog in this photo.

The scavenger with him — for that is what he was, a true pirate of the sea shanty, a scavenger at work, piloting his boat up to the half-sunken raft with its morass of rusty, tossed aside things, things which many people would consider junk, but a rusty trusty scavenger of the sea sees more than most people ever may — had stopped to see what might be available to him, on this partially sunken piece of treasure. For that’s what it was: treasure, to the right sort of person.

In the same way, Lent can be a treasure for anyone who chooses to make a decision to give something up. It may be a crutch, like chocolate, or maybe something which seems terribly bad for you, like smoking. Or, in my case, it’s reading the New York Times every morning when I could be sitting down in my studio taking the precious time spent reading about the world’s latest trials and tribs to produce something more artistic, more engaging, something which lasts.

In this season of superior amounts of snow or rain, depending on where you are — and the rain has been Biblical in its California proportions this year, I tell you — it’s kind of nice to think about excess and how to combat it. What is Mardi Gras but a celebration of excess? What is Lent but a time of repentance and reflection?

What will you give up? What rusty, trusty things will you discover?

An homage to Beatrice

Sometimes a writer needs a little juice to keep going. This can often take place at writing residencies, retreats and the like — and who doesn’t like a chance to get away and explore the belly button lint in their own navel? I’m not saying that’s what I do when I go on retreat, but who’s to stop you.

But sometimes you can’t get away from the demands of home, work, life. Sometimes you need a little pick me up of your own making. I designed this altar not too long ago, as the foggy days preambled into what passes for fall in the North Bay. The Day of the Dead was fast approaching, as was All Saint’s Day, and I felt like saying hello to Beatrice, who often visits me in my dreams and whom I know sits on my shoulder like a little angel-devil with a come hither stare telling me to just keep going into the void. Eventually you will find your way out.

And sometimes you just want to pay your respects to your artistic forebears, no?

Some candles, a few daisies, and don’t forget the chrysanthemums. A buddha statue with a few tea lights, a mala for the dreams, a scarf to keep the spirits warm, and of course some photos to evoke the dead. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t have to be this — but it’s awfully nice to step back, take a moment — take a breath, if you will, and light a candle in someone else’s honor.