Body Surfing Back to Wu

This vintage photograph found at an antique shop shows a woman seated in a corner of the room, her lap covered by a vast length of a coverlet that she must have spent hundreds of hours crocheting. Her face and posture fascinate me. She expresses a simple and quiet sense of accomplishment as her handiwork flows like a stream into the foreground. It inspires me as a demonstration of self discipline and perseverance. And in her hand, she still holds her crochet hook.

In the summer of  Age Fourteen I left our small Alabama town that happily identified itself as the “heart of the heart of Dixie”  to visit my brother who resided  in Huntington Beach, California.

It was a really big deal to me. I loved California, and still do. The people have a live and let live,  “no worries” attitude that I find bracing.

The apples are crisper and the wine is not only better but less expensive. And I like that there is no “one”  California, but many California’s. It is a diverse place, with a northern and a southern, and with people of many colors and attitudes.

During my  summer visit I spent idyllic hours on the campus of USC where he was on the faculty, and also  ecstatically experienced my first taste of the Pacific– literally.

The Pacific Ocean was a total surprise. It’s no Gulf of Mexico, which is more like a lake compared to one of the great geographic misnomers–the Pacific Ocean. Really? Wow. Whooosh. Body surfing is not for amateurs, which I was, but when have you ever met a fourteen year old who knew the difference?

When things go well it is an exhilarating thrill. When things go badly, it’s really, really scary. Like the tip of an iceberg, the waves curling on the surface are only a symptom of what is going on beneath them, where the ocean is roiling like a threshing machine. And I got threshed. Sanded. Tumbled like a stone.

Being in the grip of the ocean remains one of my most terrifying moments. It was new and unexpected, and I didn’t know how long I would have to hold my breath.  I wasn’t expecting to become a human tumbleweed. It is a sobering thought. “Will I be able to breathe before it’s too late?” may be one of the most critical  questions one can ask of oneself. Rolling along the sandy bottom of the ocean, I was completely unable to exert any control over my situation.

Meanwhile, back in my present galaxy, I have been having flashbacks to my oceanic adventure as I try to remain on top of a tsunami of tasks, chores, deadlines, events, commitments,assignments, and projects. Unlike my Malibu Beach “under the water experience”, I am not drowning alone. It seems to be  a national affliction.

Just as our country has become more and more divided in terms of haves and have-nots–there is a dichotomy in the work force–between those who have no employment, and who cannot find a job, and those of us who find ourselves facing a daily challenge to complete more and more tasks.

It’s doable, and I am even a sick enough puppy to enjoy the challenge, because as long as I know something CAN be done, then I am eager to test myself and see not just IF, but how WELL  I can do it myself.

Many, many, many times my mother read to me the story of the Little Red Engine That Could.  “I think I can, I think I can” —the Little Red Engine was into positive self-talk long before Oprah chugged onto the scene.

This cold noodle salad has a refreshing ginger and lemon dressing that makes it the perfect spring meal to eat al fresco.

AS I ride this one out, whether from above or below the wave, there are certain things I must do. It’s not, I’ve discovered a time to dabble or to depart from my Wu Food Project. To my sadness, I’ve gained four pounds while “under the influence” of my crazy schedule and boatload of tasks.

So for the last few days, I’ve returned to eating my Wu Boxes for lunch and supper. Whatever Mr. Wu chooses for me–I eat. The boxes  provide a constant for me and insure that I will eat a healthy meal at an appropriate time.

Already I’ve lost a couple of those extra pounds, and that makes me breathe a lot easier about my hopes for the future.

A future that should and will  include another trek to California.


by Joni Mitchell

Sitting in a park in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won’t give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

California I’m coming home
I’m going to see the folks I dig
I’ll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I’m coming home

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you California

Oh California I’m coming home
Oh make me feel good rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m your biggest fan
California I’m coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues
So I bought me a ticket
I caught a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue
They said “How long can you hang around?”
I said a week maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I’m going home to California

California I’m coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California I’m coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
More about the war
And the bloody changes
Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am?
Will you?

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

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