a Women Writer's' Showcase

by Janine Canan

Justine flew down several flights of the spiral staircase and out the door, slamming it. The white dog was right behind her. Soon they were in the car heading down the hill under the wide limbs of the sycamores.

Minutes later the little gold car sped onto the freeway. Circling the bay it swooped along the low bridge over the sparkling water into Marin. At Kabir’s Karpets, Justine’s eye lingered over the rich colorful rugs hanging out in the sun “For Sale.” She turned left, and straining upward through the shaggy eucalyptus the car, like an insect, began the steep ascent up the great belly of the Sleeping Princess.

At the top Justine blinked, blinded by the golden ocean below, metallic in the mid-day sun. Shifting into first gear she descended, steering round curve after curve of shadowy wet redwood forest. Near the coast the road opened onto meadows of yellow broom. Turning north, she skirted a silvery blue lagoon where snowy egrets soundlessly stitched the silky surface with their slim black beaks. At last she sited the stop sign, where the sign to Bolinas-repeatedly torn down by some expatriate of civilization-once had stood.

Justine swung a left. Following the farm road, she passed the old fifties gas station, the run-down grocery, health food store, coffee shop, post office, library and community center, doctor's office, and a small white-steepled church. Jukebox music spilled out of the bar. In front of the bakery, a rotund man bulging out of tie-dyed shorts stood pruning a cherry tree from a ladder. Christmas lights, still strung over the roof, trees and bushes, outlined a gigantic peace sign. Justine parked and went into the bakery to buy a loaf of bread. Then she proceeded up the hill onto the mesa. The Honda bumped wildly over the numerous muddy holes purposefully dug out in order to discourage tourists, and slid suddenly to a halt. Two horses grazed peacefully behind the fence. The younger glanced at her sideways and continued chewing. She climbed out of the car clutching several bags and her typewriter. Behind her emerged a fluffy white dog. Approaching the large gate with a carved wooden dragon sensuously slithering across it, Justine slid back a wooden peg and a small door fell open.

Eagerly she strode to the next gate, kicking it open with one foot. She unlocked the cabin door, dropped her bags onto the floor, slid the Olivetti onto the table, put the groceries on the counter and the milk into the fridge. Turning around she went right back outside. Loud bursts of music were rising from somewhere beyond the fence. She could hear banjos, violins and children playing. Next door, the door to Tom's was closed, a large cloth dropped over the window. Must be at the party, she concluded, but walked toward it anyway. As she got closer, she could hear muffled voices.

“Come in,” someone responded as she knocked.

She opened the door. Several faces drawn close around a miniature television and blazing wood stove looked up, smiling. Behind a young couple comfortably entwined around one another, stood Tom.

“Wanna join us?” he drawled, his big hand motioning her toward the red couch.

Justine, with a greeting, inserted herself between the two large men seated there. She glanced cursorily at the tiny neon screen: hulks throwing ball (or was it a large leather egg), falling over crushing one another.

"Do you live in Bolinas?” she asked the tall redhead absorbed in reading a newspaper.

Tilting his head sideways he replied, “No, in the city. I came to visit that big bear and bull behind you.”

Justine turned and looked back over her shoulder at the gorgeous undulating beasts-a majestic carved wooden bull with carnelian horns and a rippling thousand-grooved growling bear.  “Bought them from Tom, but I don’t have room for them in my apartment,” he explained. Caren passed around a platter of still warm chocolate chip cookies, and munching the little group continued their cozy chatter. Then gracefully extricating herself from David’s arms, Caren stood and bowing slightly moved in the direction of the door.

“See ya later,” she called back as she opened the door, her slender figure turning suddenly dark against the inrushing light.

Shortly behind her went Justine saying, “Think I’ll go over to my place for awhile.”

“Too much male energy for ya?” Tom answered with a roll of lusty laughter that was still sounding as she stepped out into the bright yard. Silvery gold rays of the late January sun shone through the tall pines bordering the cottages. She started toward her cabin but suddenly turned off toward Caren's. Walking in without knocking, her eyes followed the big soft colorful brushwork of her paintings along the entry wall.

“Hello,” Caren cooed from inside. “Hi, I was wondering if you’d like to go for a walk?”

“Sure,” Caren returned, her clear blue eyes brightening, ”Wanna take a long one?”

“Yes,” Justine sang back against the powerful reverberations of Santana on the stereo. The two women sipped a joint, slipped on their jackets and boots, and headed down the road with the white bushy dog trotting alongside them.

Pushing their way through the dense shrub, they eventually emerged on a dry grassy headland overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As they followed the hill’s familiar downward slope, they talked in energetic spurts about their painting and writing. The path continued along a broad gully that cut through an old eucalyptus grove and eventually opened onto the beach. Upon the horizon sat the sun under a brilliant orange sky.

“Let's stop,” Justine called to Caren. Together they crouched upon a fallen tree and watched the dark opalescent sea that was painting the lava landscape with silver pink and pearl blue. A black gull glided back and forth through the primordial scene. Into the now intense magenta sky a great heron lifted his massive wings. And high above in the blue ether appeared a fluorescent sliver of moon.

The worst thing, Justine thought with full realization, is to waste your life. The dog wiggled her fuzzy body through the tangle of looping bleached white roots of a large eucalyptus that lay prostrate on the sand, and raced out toward the ocean. The women remained motionless, silently contemplating Creation pouring itself ever new from the brimming void, like a miraculous cup filling up and spilling out more and more life.

Suddenly the dog reappeared at their feet wagging her white plume, beckoning. Simultaneously they rose. Then all three slid down the irresistible bank onto the sandy shore. When they had reached the water’s edge, the women gazed back at the silver and black rockscape behind them. The sky was a gaudy pink metal. 

“Look!” yelled Caren over the rumble of the ocean. Her arm rose upward pointing to a giant Eye of God, worked high up into the darkening cliff. Above it on the bluff, enthroned upon the boulders, poised a black-robed priestess in a tall conical hat who was chanting and waving her long limbs over the ocean and out toward the departing Sun. The flowing woman sang and the ocean roared.

They stood in the cold air watching her worship as the cliff released an avalanche of rocks all along the vanishing shore.

Janine Canan, poet and psychiatrist, graduate of Stanford and New York University School of Medicine, resides in Sonoma, California. She is the author of a dozen poetry collections, including In the Palace of Creation: Selected Works 1969-1999 and Changing Woman. She translated the German poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler in Star in My Forehead. She edited the award-winning anthology, She Rises like the Sun: Invocations of the Goddess by Contemporary American Women Poets, as well as The Rhyme of the Ag-ed Mariness: Last Poems of Lynn Lonidier, and Messages from Amma: In the Language of the Heart. Janine’s stories, Journeys with Justine, illustrated by Cristina Biaggi, will soon be out. She is currently poetry editor for Awakened Woman, and you may visit her at www.JanineCanan.com. Contact Janine.