Another Cut from “Swamis”

It is my sincere belief that it is better to have too much material, too many stories, with editing and cutting, as painful as these things are, still preferable to padding. I have to cut, cut side stories, possibly even characters. Painful. And it’s not just that I think my words are precious; they are just words, keystrokes, blocks… whatever; words.

And I am going to do it, cut “Swamis” until it becomes… readable.

I do think each of the side trips I’ve taken have been worthwhile; each of the stories has been crafted, built from the strokes, worried over and thought through; each one edited down before being added to, and now subtracted from the manuscript.

This chapter is years out from 1969.

the condo wall, pretty much unbroken from Solana Beach to Del Mar


I spent about ten days in my mother’s condo, two bedrooms, ‘en suite,’ she liked to say; five days before she died, four days with Freddy and/or his wife, Marcia. Mostly Marcia.  “Freddy’s just not strong enough,” Marcia said. The unit was all on one floor, the building indistinguishable from the rest of those forming a barrier along the bluff from Del Mar to Solana Beach.

“Your father,” my mother told Freddy and me on the third day, “has been gone so long.  A lifetime ago.” 

On the tenth day, paperwork mostly handled, a realtor with a proven record in waterfront sales selected, I set the urn that the funeral home provided, silvery and plain, on the table on the deck. Outside. She had wanted some of her ashes dropped down the steep and constantly eroding cliff, always under siege by wind and water, chunks of sandstone occasionally falling onto the riprap at the base, new rocks constantly being added to protect the investments of people who just had to be by the ocean.

Even with an early morning offshore wind there was just enough of an updraft that the lightest of the ashes blew back onto her deck, some onto the neighbor’s. My mother would have been amused. I was.

Marcia arranged for a portion of the ashes to be in a place adjacent to my father’s gravesite. Freddy and I each have an urn, decorated in a way that just might suggest that they contain the remains of a woman who was born in Japan, orphaned early, pulled into a different world, and pushed into another; suddenly, dramatically, tragically.

Yet, her last years were calm, undramatic for the most part; and she slipped into her last phase with, I more imagined than believed, a certain contentment. I put the urn on a mantle over a natural gas fireplace. Behind it I have something resembling a double pane glass window, a bit thicker, with a frame on the bottom and two sides, open at the top; not square; a bit of a swoop.  The water inside has a blue-green tinge. 

Behind that, leaning against the wall, I placed a more silver than black and white photo, mounted on wood rather than framed, and enlarged, two feet wide, three feet high. The image is from a photo Virginia Cole took wading out at Swamis late on an afternoon. It is a wave, though the few visitors I’ve had haven’t immediately recognized it as such, even with the subtle patterns on the water’s surface from the energy that is coursing through it, left to right and up and down; the dark core two-thirds of the way down; a lightness three-quarters of the way up; almost transparent, almost white; the sun almost shining through.

In random moments there are waves; left to right, right to left, never breaking free.

“It’s my mother, her spirit.” When no one else is here, I say, “Yeah, Mom; I know.”     

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