Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Ranch Rev 2

It’s the beginning of my second visit to the Ranch, and the world is outside the fence where it should be.  Telephone reception is spotty at best, and the computers are slow in the computer lounge.  Some people have telephones in their “suites” but I am happy to live without all of those electronic links to the outside for a week.  I do use the alarm clock, however, or I’d probably never get up. The rooms are so cozy and the bedding so deep and warm and soft, I sleep like a baby, and dream wildly in color every night. Every night. 

It’s still dark and the heater is cycling on and off.  Do I get up for the hike or go back to sleep.  It’s colder than shit Christmas Eve.  My little casita has heavy curtains, drawn tightly closed against the night.  I get up and pull on my long underwear, thick wool socks and hiking boots.  Where are my bloody gloves and hat?  I wash my face, or rather splash it with cold water, grab some chap stick and my heavy jacket and head out the door.  It’s so womblike and comforting inside it takes an extraordinary act of will to actually step out the door, but I’m already awake and dressed in too many layers to back down now. 

My first time here, probably 5 or 6 years ago, I brought way too many clothes.  I guestimated I would need one outfit for the early morning hike each day, one for the day exercise classes, and one for evening.  Multiply that times 7 and you’ve got two honking suitcases that scream “newbie”.   I learned pretty quickly that everyone wears the same thing for the hike every morning- and no one cares or even notices. 

Passing through the vine covered arch guarding the secret garden of Los Flores I see the kitchen staff coming to work. I walk to the main lounge on the other side of the ranch, the flames and warmth of the wood fire inside reflecting off the glass windows, dark shapes moving across the panes as the “mountain climbing group” heads out.  I wave at friends and friends to come during this time together- old and new, as they skip past me on an early morning quest for some serious climbing.  I’m doing the second shift, more casual, less athletic two mile rolling hills walk like yesterday, or maybe the organic vegetable garden walk.  Frittatas and chocolate zucchini bread.  A little decadent, designed for only one visit a week, and perfectly suited as my reward for getting up and doing the hike in the first place. Motivation.

Hey, if I’m going to pay this kind of money and spend most of my time in physical activity, I can easily justify using food as a motivation.  The rest of the year at home I save up my weight watchers points for the weekend, for wine, for decadent meals in decadent cafes.

 I pull open the side door of the lounge and see lots of red noses, and faces huddled over steamy cups of tea with agave nectar.  I see that our special guests this week, a rabbi and his wife from New York, and a researcher lecturing on ability of monkeys to communicate with humans are joining us for the hike. Despite the hour, we are all in good spirits, commenting on how bizarre it is that we are not just lying in our warm, soft, delicious beds, that we actually signed up for this.

There are about 20 of us and we step outside a disorderly line disappearing into the chilly damp morning just before sunrise, breathing through our mouths, weaving our way past sculptures and landscape lighting, past the yoga and dance studios, past the grape vines barren in the winter chill, past the labyrinth along the path at the base of Mt. Kuchima.  The staff strong and lean herds us up the trail, and follows the last guest - it’s a big property, they don’t want to lose us.  Walkey talkies abrupt screeching, staccato notes from the mother ship a lifeline to civilization, or the sighting of a mountain lion, or our approach to the garden.  I pull off my gloves as the day and my metabolism kicks in, and we pause for a moment near the hollows in the stones where acorns were ground. A little historic commentary by the young lady for the first timers, and then we pause for a moment and  In the silence before we continue our walk, I hear the sound of the chanting Kumeyaay Indians from the burial grounds far above us. 

We continue on the path, around hills, slight inclines, through farm gates, past horses and burros and goats and chickens, up the road, over the bridge, across the creek.  Chatting for moments as the path narrows and clumps of guest form, but mostly walking quietly, enjoying the start to a new day, smiling as we pass , each at our own pace, on the trail.  As the sun comes up, the garden begins to appear as if by magic and as we draw closer in the chilly dawn the glass hot houses and La cocina que canta appears as if by magic.  The last time I was here, they were just beginning construction, and it’s now up and running.  I hope to take a class this week, just to check it out.  But this morning we are here for the breakfast, which is served in the dining area of the cooking school.

The food at the ranch is excellent and healthy at every meal, but the breakfasts at the garden are exceptional, and are definitely a part of what you “take home” from the ranch to savor year round.  There are cats wandering around, farm pets, and a dog named Lucky that may have been here the last time.  Most of them are friendly and have learned to pose for the camera, and know how to get attention from the guests.   This time we enter from a farm gate and walk down the main path of the garden.  It’s beautiful, every lettuce, every vegetable, exotic herbs, amaranth (my first glimpse of it in this lifetime) – and then it’s time to eat. 

It’s nice and toasty inside; although I loved the little kitchen building before the Cocina was built.  It had benches along the wall, and long tables, the new space has lofty ceilings, better for teaching classes I agree, but not quite as cozy. Everyone takes off jackets, gloves, scarves that kept the pre-dawn chill from the bones, and forms a chattering queue in the direction of the frittata, potatoes, the zucchini bread, beans, tortillas, juice, coffee, chocolate, tea, Not a lot of small talk this time of the morning, and we are all transported to a heavenly place with each mouthful, regardless of our chosen faith or lack thereof.

My first time at the ranch I took a class called “Tools for the Garden” taught by Farmer Bill.  I’m a crazy gardener at home, but this is the first time in my entire gardening life that someone actually showed me- and about 15 others how to properly use a shovel, a hoe to maximize its impact without hurting yourself, We prepared an entire garden bed, approximately 5 ft wide by maybe 36 ft long and to get the technique down, and all this at approximately 7:30 in the morning on chilly misty winters day.  It may sound unlikely but it was fun!

So after softening into the comfort of a toasty room, when the call comes, we all get up grudgingly and head outside into the cold, and the garden manager takes us on a tour, pulling winter vegetables and herbs right out of the ground, talking about what they grow at different seasons of the year, and what happens to the excess harvest, some of it sent to a hospital in Tijuana. .  I always take the tour, I enjoy the time in the field.

 Then it’s back to the trail, back to the rambling outbuildings of the ranch.   The first classes start at 9:00 so it’s an easy walk, and plenty of time to grab another cup of tea or coffee or that fake coffee stuff from the lodge before it starts. Just past the labyrinth, we stop at the wood log rails to do some stretching.  It’s still cool, wintertime, once you stand still for a moment, and there’s lots of moisture in the air. My body temperature cools down and is replaced by the frozen nose, and I head for my casita for a quick look in the mirror and a toothbrush, and to change into my workout shoes.  I am wide awake and ready to go, or am I?  I glance at the book I’d brought with me and keep moving.  Too much to explore.


Belly Flop Rev 1

I always manage to slip out before the other shoe drops, before the point of no return, before I get too deeply involved.  Is it luck or fear?  I’m not sure if this qualifies as “in bad company” when I leave before the bad is obvious- only when it is sensed, or early on, when things appear to be going bad. 

I had a mad crush on a guy, back in my 30s.  He lived in a small trailer in a park in Solana Beach near the Belly Up, come to think of it; I probably met him at the Belly Up.  He was very handsome, a building contractor (unlicensed) with a black Labrador retriever.  In public he’d treat me like a queen but the minute the others were gone he would be mean, and disrespectful.  I knew it but I was absorbed with his looks and also one hundred miles from home so I didn’t really want to drive in the middle of the night on a weekend either.  I know these thoughts were going through my head but I deleted them almost as fast as they appeared. 

And then it happened, the words turned physical after a Padres game, and it escalated from a snide remark about my forgetting to get butter on popcorn that evening, or something just as random.  I’d had it with his remarks and made a comment about his relationship with his dog, and he became enraged and backhanded me across the face.

I fell backward onto the gravel and started crying.  I walked to my car and drove the hundred miles, stopping at a gas station to wash my face , so I wouldn’t have to answer any questions.

This guy has haunted me for years.  I’ve written other stories about him.  He didn’t go quietly despite this incident.  He wrote me letters and postcards for the next year.  I responded only once to a postcard sent from Colorado with seven words.  Glad to hear you’ve left the state.

Years went by, decades, I returned to live I the same area.  I swore I spotted him on the street.  It worried me for months. In the back of my mind it is still a worry.

To be continued

©sharonjcorrigan all rights reserved

Bored Rev 1


The bubble deflated, attaching itself to my left ear sagging from the tip of my nose to my chin.

I reached up, using my pinky cocaine nail to pick at my ear, detaching the pink blob from its perch and returning it to the center of my tongue.  I looked around; no one even looked up and prepared for a second try.

There we go slow massage those lips together let the air seep into that sticky gummy mess and float unanchored into the air like a soap bubble. 

Oh shit, pooooooppppp, this one collapsed even sooner and even more quietly despite its size.  I should’ve kept- my head up, tied my hair back, and moved behind the stacks so the librarian wouldn’t see me.  Holding the book in front to hide the bubble was a bad idea, in retrospect and now I’ve got to get it outside, or have to pay for damaging it with my gum. 

It’s all over page 48 and it will stick to 49 the minute I closed the cover. And it'll leave a gap visible to everyone, especially the volunteers that restock the shelves.  Oh someone must have turned a page down.  Oh no- some idiot stuck a wad of gum in this book.

To be continued.

©sharonjcorrigan2011 all rights reserved

Excess Rev 1

I have lots of shoes and footwear.

 I also have lots of very expensive glass frames from old prescriptions. 

I’m going to take a wild guess and say I have about 30 pairs of black shoes of one sort or another.  I know I have 1 pair of tall black boots, two pairs of short lace up boots, one with a zipper on the side, 1 pair of traditional loafers, 1 pair of kitten heel pumps with oval stitching on the toe bought at Nordstrom in Indianapolis, 2 pair of OJ Simpson  open toe sling back 2” heels- black & red (Bruno Magalia), 1 pair of crocs ballet flats that look sort of like suede but aren’t, 1 pair of sporty loafer type slip-ons with contrasting stitching and a toggle, 1 pair of t strap sandals, 1 pair of open toe strappy black sandals, 1 pair of Akko gladiator sandals, In the garage I have two pairs of raggedy really comfortable keen flats that I’ll never wear again, I have  ankle strap leopard look flats bought at Nordstrom Pentagon City,

 A pair of brown Keen maryjanes, a pair of dark brown tooled leather flats , a pair of yellow ochre sandals that I need to throw away but that are the right color, a pair of silver sandals that are cute but have a piece between my toes like flip flops that hurts, a pair of alligator slip-ons with only a toe ring that has crystals on it, a pair of European looking Born's that have a Velcro strap and I’ve worn out the soles, a pair of black flat espadrilles with ribbons that wrap to my knees, a pair of brown lace up boots, a pair of beige short Uggs, 2 pairs of Mephisto walking shoes (one a neutral boring pair I hate, the other with tweed accents that are cool but one size too small), 1 pair of Uggs cool looking purple suede converse looking tennis shoes, 1 pair of patent flip flops with a fake red flower and kitten heels, 1 pair of slides with leather rose flower decoration, I pair of brown shoes with ankle straps that look like leaves and a kitten heel that I bought years ago at Cedro’s sole in Solana Beach-  in a shoe daze, and…

Glasses, I have one pair of tiffany  RX reading frames with a diamond chip, I have ….

©2011sharonjcorrigan all rights reserved

Bull Shit Rev 1

Tomorrow is the day he thought the day I break my record in the ring the weather is dark, the stone cold, my mother and father will sit on the narrow benches heads held high dignified proud but humble.

The picadors lead the parade from the tunnel, tight pants and tiny vests, hats with wide brims, almost effeminate in this arena, the bull the testosterone raging silently ominously from behind the fence their torsos thrusting themselves sideways bouncing off the hard stone wall, adding another crack in the gates.  The music, the crowd, swaying forward to see the beginning of the dance, and back again. To neutral when the strain becomes too much. Adrenaline racing around and around row by row forward backward, the first bull is freed, suddenly surprised by the absence of a barrier where there once was resistance. Shaking his head from side to side, scanning the ground, nothing the positions of the picadors, and smelling the sweat the dirt and the blood of centuries baked into the walls and the earth.

My stomach churning I stand off to the side, just out of sight, watching the scene unfold, last night I played hard the dawn fast on the heels of midnight, the cava and the darkness  and the joy in my lovers arms . Too much salt in the tortilla too many peppers in the brine of the olives, too many days off training this season. Blame the tightness of my vest or the laundry, the limpness of my manhood on the premonition of failure, humiliation on a massive scale.

What will I do should I fail to strike the killing blow, how to escape, how to explain, how to live with my ineptitude. The matador raised his right hand and tried to stem the flow of sweat streaming from his brow.  He was not prepared, would never be prepared he now realized.  It is too late now, he stared into the distance, lost.

To be continued

©sharonjcorrigan2011 all rights reserved