Conversations with Lori

I have a muse whose name is Lori, a child of the universe. Here is where I will place a record of our conversations.




5 responses to “Conversations with Lori

  1. kellyshaw2001

    November 15, 2014 at 4:08 am

    Lori – A Child of Love

    Far beneath the bluff on which my cottage sits, the ocean crashes and tumbles ashore like a restless spirit. I’ve always been drawn to the sea, not just in my life but in my writings, using the lighthouse as my signature; a beacon shining out periodically. Dawn to dusk, if asked, would be my favorite time to stand here, gazing toward the dependable, if momentary flash that is Point Reyes.

    “Mr. Frank…” A child’s voice; one never too distant from my creative imagination.


    “Yes. Help me with the gate will you, Mr. Frank.”

    My home is a grand sight – the redness of its bricks, the yellowness of the light through the kitchen window in the evenings, and the love it shelters inside is my life. Stepping from the grass onto the gravel driveway I tell Lori to push hard. The gate swings wide and her fragile hand finds mine immediately. The sudden joy is almost painful; almost, as if the warmth therein takes me back to my own childhood. I was a pirate way back then, going away, my skull and crossbones flying. It was always my very own glad adventure.

    “What have you been writing about today, Mr. Frank?” She asks – matter of fact.

    Before answering I think about her question. You see, writing goes beyond just the documenting of facts. It goes to who I am and why I do the things I do. I write to put flesh on my bones.

    “Well, let me think, Lori, today I wrote about a magical Unicorn.”

    “You did!” She gasps, half understanding that is what I would want to hear.

    We reach the old bench, like me, rickety with age, and I sit where I always sit, in the evening’s shade of the Cypress, itself bent and misshapen like an old man. Lori looks up at my face, her curls naturally tight, eyes unnaturally blue, left one slightly cast, then frowning she looks at my crossed legs. It’s her clear signal. I uncross them and she sprawls onto my lap, pulling herself upright, tiny hand touching my cheek…stroking….

    “But Mr. Frank, Unicorns live on the land, silly bean.” And she floats that wonder into her smile and sails it between us.

    “Not Daniel, that’s his name. He lives in the ocean, Lori, for that is where the Unicorn becomes the Narwhal.”

    “It does?”

    “Why, certainly.”

    Her legs cease their swinging.

    There are those who find love, maybe not here by the sea, perhaps in restaurants or inside an office block and these people give each other a ring to kiss. When I was young I remember a time when all I had to offer anyone was me, shabby most times, dreaming all the time. It’s not much, I figured, but when I meet the woman I shall love, she will know; that’s what I told myself. Anything to keep my empty heart open, knowing I would one day find her, perhaps on an Alitalia flight to Rome, or having her hair done in the window of a New York coiffeur, or riding a rickshaw in Rangoon.

    “I know why you put him in the ocean, Mr. Frank.”

    Is she playing a game with me, I wonder. Yes, I have bones out there; bones of my bone and of my flesh. It goes to the pride of what my father was able to accomplish. How he contributed to what I am today. It goes all the way to respecting his hardships and his losses, his never giving in or giving up, his resoluteness to go on and build a life for his family. It goes to the depths of my pride that he fought to make and keep us a family, and it goes to a deeper, a more immense understanding of what he was doing for me; that I too might be born, would remember him. How many hopelessly empty graves have I stood before and cried? I’ve lost count. How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow that below is a lost love? I cannot say. My feeling is one of a man bound to wonder about his father. To put flesh on his bones and make him live again, to tell the family story and feel that somehow he will know and approve. For me it is a cold gathering of facts, when instead it should be a breathing of life into one who has gone before. I am simply the storyteller of the tribe.

    “You will remember me, too, won’t you, Mr. Frank?”

    “Of course, Lori. No matter what chilly wind blows, you’ll be safe from the storms with me.”

    “I am the child of love, Mr. Frank. How I found you I don’t know. I’ve been everywhere, seen everything I ever wanted to see and was never found. I’ve been afloat on every ocean and never saw the light of home, spent days lost in cities and never heard a voice calling, then one day, out of the blue your words came, Mr. Frank, and fired my childish heart, brought every dream of being a woman into my life and how I would one day fall so madly in love. I mean fall in love, head over heels, head to toe, slap bang into the magical world of your words.”

    I don’t know why it is mind should bring a child to his rescue; just an old man reliving his past, hoping instead he could still be that child standing on the harbor walls of Tobermoray, learning how to be in love.

    “To know love and beauty, Mr. Frank, a man must first reside in its midst. Your words will ensure you always come back to me, to the idea that love is accountable, and love is always refreshed.” She says, removing her scarf and wrapping it around my neck, twice, before slipping from my lap. “But now I have to be going.”

    “Where will you go, Lori?”

    “Beyond the trees, following the foghorn’s blow, passed all those times, beyond these shores, remembering all who have forgotten my name.”

    In the overtones of her voice I hear a startling maturity and, for a moment, have a vision of an older Lori; older than teenager, and in her heart she will hold a certain courage and a confidence; the courage to believe in the resilience of life and love, and the confidence to barrel forward, her imagination more indestructible than religion. Has she simply invented me: someone unbearably full of love, euphoric, and miraculously hers?

    Together we pull open the gate wide.

    “Before you go, why are you called Lori?” But already she is disappearing from my conscious thought as I hear…

    “Why, Mr. Frank, it was you who gave me this name: Love, Ocean, Radiance and Imagination” She answers, her voice as faint as an idea.

    Love, I’ve learned, never wears a mask. It removes any necessity for masquerading or making false assumptions. And when you carry a child of love in your heart you must believe me when I tell you, you are lifted aloft yourself.

    I turn back toward the cottage, see its yellow glow through the window, and feel the love beyond its glow calling out to me.


  2. kellyshaw2001

    November 15, 2014 at 4:13 am


    Sitting here on the bench, watching the sun’s last throws, a smudge of tangerine on the ocean, I wonder why one never truly understands the ocean until sinking into it. That’s quite prophetic, and while I feel a little tipsy, light hearted, having eaten a good tomato and watermelon salad, washed down with a glass of Chardonnay, I feel there are so many things I don’t yet know, or understand, so I write about them; if not as a writer looking for an explanation, then as man wishing to know more than he does.

    I wish I’d moved more slowly, taken my time to arrive where I am. Perhaps dined and danced more often, learned each other’s glances at leisure, taken note how quickly time was passing. The sun completes its journey over and over, I wonder why cannot we do the same?

    “Mr. Frank…you busy?” It’s Lori.

    “Be right over, Lori.” I move toward the gate.

    “You’ve always got the gates closed, Mr. Frank.”

    When I thought there was only the ocean left; having accepted there wouldn’t be anyone again, knowing there will always be sea water and sea memories washing into one another, it is easier to lock away the heart; nothing in, nothing out is a comfort not to be taken lightly.

    “I guess I do, Lori. Here….push…”

    By April’s beginning, the waves start to rebuild the beaches they destroyed a season back.

    “Hold my hand, please.” She says, stretching her arm toward me.

    The two of us, hands bumping, being twisted every which way to fit together, are pieces of a different jigsaw, different puzzles, and yet somehow we try to make something fit in our lives…even if it’s just a hand in hand.

    “You were thinking about something, I saw you.”

    “I was…?”


    Thoughts always return, broken, splintered, like shards of love returning from another universe after being flung far off into space. Fragments that still survive, coming back at you speaking of warmth, or friendship, or what goes with what. Of course we alone know the truth, all the things we leave out, cast aside on a Monday; on Tuesday hurtling down.

    “Daydreaming, Lori…just daydreaming…”

    “Does soda help?” She asks, seeing a glass set on a tree stump.

    An innocent question deserves an innocent answer. In truth, it’s not soda of course, but a Johnny Walker; a whisky works like sunlight, keeping a light on in one’s chest. Keeps it unafraid in the empty dark; and brave enough to seek out that never-never place between the petticoat rim and the deeper depths.

    “Do you like soda, Lori? I can get you one”

    “Look, Mr. Frank…look…look…” Her delight is stinging in its infectiousness.

    A hot air balloon, still in the sky at sunset, first over the lower hills, sails on. I want to shout come down! Have a cup of tea! But a yellow burst of flame sends it soaring over the higher hills, moving toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

    “Look…another…!” Lori, gasps, pointing heavenward. She is seven years of age.

    “They’re beautiful, aren’t they, Lori. Would you like to be up there, floating, watching all the sheep, listening to the farmers, hearing the cows in the field?”

    Balloons have taught me a great deal about life and marriage. The beauty of balloons is in their flying free, two of them, side by side, untethered, with love being the wind, trusting in its direction; each one ending up in the same place from their journey.

    “I’m a water baby, Mr. Frank. My heart is lifted on the dart of a dolphin, gentled by the swell. I’m a child of the universe, remember?”

    “I do remember, Lori.”

    “I better get going…don’t forget to finish your soda, Mr. Frank.”

    Maybe I don’t need the crutch of a whisky to demonstrate courage, or to do something right, even if I only share my ideas and beliefs as illustrations, and not make them a definitive roadmap. I will spend my last years alone, but not lonely, for there will always be Lori.

    “Did you ever lose someone, Mr. Frank?” She asks, standing against the gate, her two hands holding on and her angelic face peering between the rails…

    “I was found, Lori. Yes, I was found.”


  3. kellyshaw2001

    November 15, 2014 at 4:20 am

    Life goes on Forever Game

    Looking out on a clear day, an hour before sunset, under a sky swept clean of cloud, over an ocean that is, as far as can be imagined anyway, without malice, (a comfort to the sailor in me) I realize I will never come to terms with my life enough to talk about it, other than through my stories. I have a bulkhead of memories full of tempestuous seas, and of a father at home on the waves, but by his own admission, always felt a slight unnerving twitch when his vessel got caught in the trough; having free-fallen into a dark blue valley, shuddering violently as it hit the bottom of the crest. And yes, the sea has my flesh, my blood, and my loves.
    “Mr. Frank…you there?” It’s a voice that has taken up residency in my heart.

    “Hey Lori, sure I am. Want to come over?”

    “Help me with the gate, Mr. Frank.”

    Lori pushes as I pull. She burst forth…and years of my life simply glide away, not because the child is angelic, not because she is without imperfection, one eye is cast, but because her young limbs stretch out across my garden to begin her games.

    “So what game shall we play today, little Lori?”

    “Can we play: Life goes on Forever, Mr. Frank? Please, it’s my favorite.”

    My life is more than half done, I’ve earned certain rights, and of them I choose to make my world what I want I want it to be. California gold poppies are growing above the shoreline, flourishing in the sandy environment. For a while they are perfect. Dying doesn’t matter after that I guess.

    “Tell me, Lori, why is it your favorite?”

    “I get to show you things. I like that.” She answers.

    Children…the commandments of our life. Offer them love…that alone…love, and they cannot be failed. Dearest Lori, how you gladden my spirit. Mystery is all there is to mystery, unless you count on the coming of it. As her tiny hand fits into mine, hands that have never done wrong, the heart is transported; winging through a hole in the mist toward a vision that wasn’t there an hour ago, and will be gone an hour from now.

    “Hurry, Mr. Frank. Or you’ll miss him!”

    “I’m coming, Lori…you run so fast. Miss who?” Her hand had escaped mine.

    “He’ll be gone an hour from now.” She says, her hand reaching back to mine.

    “Well, we’d better hurry.” I said.

    She stops up ahead, at the edge of the bluff, her image as clear as a Monet painting. Beyond are bottomless nights, dawns of sunlight, and heart-breaking movement. It is the ocean. Moved only by the life-force of the moon, and guided across by stars. She never sleeps. Adorned by violet fogs one day, maelstroms on another, her mermaids move serenely within the watery space, black sea-horses their escorts.

    “Why did you bring me here, Lori?” I ask, shading my eyes from the burning in the sky, falling.

    “I didn’t bring you here Mr. Frank.” She says… a petal on the grass. “He did…” her arm risen horizontal, its directing finger as sharp as a stab to my soul.

    He was my ocean and my stars, my God and all his heaven. Some men turned for home when the winter came, he did not. The sea held my father as surely as the shawl of ribbons held him at home. He cared nothing for the adverse implications that dogged us mere humans; his blood was diluted with the salinity of the ocean. He alone taught me: the most hostile environment is the one in which we ourselves live, and not the barren, hard, savage places where people toil. The sudden sight of his beauty. That proud head, his back cradled with muscle and sinew, shimmering with sweat, and the burning of the wind upon his cheeks, a living creature; a fisherman, my father. He was never a difficult man to deal with; nor hard to please. He just made happiness a habit. The once raucous sound of his life never felt far away, even when his physical being could be closer.

    After my first day at my new school we took a picnic down to the harbor. It was thick with tourists, the air’s fragrance heavy with sun-tan lotion and ice cream. We sat together under the harbor wall in the cool shade. I paddled around, while dad searched between the rocks. I caught the expression on his face — an excited, gleaming smile as he returned, his hands holding seashells. He opened his huge hand…there were seven.

    “Do you know what these are, son.” He asked.

    “Seashells, dad.”

    “Seashells, yes, but they are so much more than that, boy.” He said, gesturing for me to accept them. “Put them in your back pocket, lad.”

    I took them from him, one at a time, looking at each. They did look just like seashells.

    “Hold my hand, now. Your mother will be thinking we got lost!” I smile and move toward him, taking hold, feeling its strength, knowing all its work, safe in its beauty.

    In the evening he told stories about the mighty seas, describing those deep-sea fishes, those black, those blind creatures, un-acknowledged, but living all the same. I enjoyed the summers, but far more, the winters — when the tourists had gone home, leaving us to cope with the prevailing winds, floods, and storms that were an integral part of coastal living — when the sea was at its most powerful.

    It’s a moment, an hour long. The ocean has finally swallowed the day, extinguished its light. Dad, too, has long since sailed over the world’s edge.

    Lori holds her hand open, raising it to me, befriending a man who has the unique ability to lose himself in a mist that covers his reality. I have protected myself well. I will always be what I write; be made happy, sad, rich or poor, I am just what the words say, and no longer feel any ambition to prove otherwise.

    “What do you have there, Lori?” I ask.

    At the gate she reveals her secret. There are seven seashells; the same seven seashells that once filled my back pocket.

    “Seashells.” I say, pulling open the gate.

    “No, Mr. Frank. They are Continents.”

    My work gets done. Life moves along and there are times – a few minutes every day – when I forget about Dad. Well, maybe less than a few.

    “Come by soon, Lori. Okay?”

    “Of course. I’ll know when to come.”

    It’s the bottom of the day, having been set on fire, and now leaving on a sigh. The small one, gone through the gate, soon rustling through the trees.



  4. kellyshaw2001

    November 15, 2014 at 4:24 am

    The Stranger…The Writer

    The way I’m with my friends is, while explaining a paradoxical trait to become more the gregarious loner, to be closer through my work, to communicate with them on the page rather than over drinks. I think it was Proust who claimed the only way he could truly be with his friends was to first leave them. I get that.

    The one thing I enjoy about writing is the independence it offers me. Thinking and being on my own. That said, I know I will not be the writer I eventually want to be without listening to advice. Time was I never sought such a thing, simply wrote freely hundreds and hundreds of drafts. When I look back, I was correcting what I believed to be wrong; what I should have been doing was looking at what I did right, and improve on those things. What, after-all, did I want to achieve? It wasn’t clear for a long time, but to be thoughtful, to be articulate, even eloquent on the page. That vanity has not diminished. All this is good. But there has to be something more important. After so many years the pin fell on its point! I want it to be fun. Today writing is the most fun I can have on my own.

    “Mr. Frank…can you hear me?” The voice drifts across on the wind, settling somewhere between my ears.

    I look toward the gate, the source of the noise between my ears. My heart does that little ‘flippy’ thing.

    “Coming, Lori.”

    Together we ease open the big wrought iron gates.

    “I came yesterday, Mr. Frank…you didn’t hear me calling?” She says, reaching her hand into mine.

    Where is inspiration if not in the hand of child?

    “You did…?” I realize that sometimes I’m not open to my friends.

    “I think you were busy being alone. You like that, don’t you…” I would have answered something; something that might not hurt her, but she went on… “Will you give me a piggy back, Mr. Frank?”

    I lay awake hour after hour, night after night, trying to imagine why I want so much to escape from reality: to be infernally alone with just my thoughts, my imagination glowing red, making thought my language. Giddy, full of hope, anticipation.

    “Sure, here…” and with a twirl I take her up onto my shoulders.

    Writing is about reaching new heights, moments of pure emotion, defining real excitement, to see and feel things in a new way, from different perspectives; seeing life beyond the gates. To carry a story forward the way one would carry a child.

    “It’s kind of scary, Mr. Frank…” I feel the warmth of her hands on my head, the trust, and yes, the trepidation.

    “I’ve got you, Lori…you’re safe.”

    “Because you love me…?”

    How much better to be a friend, and have their utter trust. To have been with them, when all they hold in their hand is shredded tissue, and to understand why it is they keep a scrapbook on the bedside table. To be a friend to any child: the sissy, the dumb kid, the smart, rich kid, or poor kid, the kids who wear thick glasses, the show offs, the cripples, yes, especially the crippled child.

    “Yes, Lori, that is indeed why.” She leans forward putting her hands under my chin, whispering into my ear.

    It maybe that when the creative juices determine, a friend might say something he or she would not say in the reality; encourage this change, for are we not trying to create a different voice from the real life model.

    “I hate you, Mr. Frank…when something, or someone occupies your mind so much that you forget me; I hate you for allowing that.”

    Shame is a strong and powerful emotion; it has a feeling all of its own, and one that sits uneasily on the page, quite different from embarrassment. I’m not good at shame. Embarrassment, well, yes, I perfected this in life. The hardest thing to do, I have found, is to feel helpful toward a friend going through a period of shame. All these years the memory of my love, and how I failed in its duty. Oh God!

    “I’m sorry, Lori…” I’m guilt’s target, and her aim is true, no one person ever missed me, not once.

    “I love you…“ she whispers, “…just be here for me, okay?”

    Clichés, like spitting blood, mark a bruise on the page, rupturing our character on the inside.

    Our perspective’s change when the position from which we observe is a different viewpoint.

    “I will, Lori. It won’t happen again.”

    She rolls my ears over, touches my face; love coming through her fingers, cooling my skin, inflating a ruptured heart.

    “Put me down here, Mr. Frank.”

    The sky is opening less pale. I cannot think of being alone, feeling a hand on my cheek, an urge for a child to be friends. Maybe she came out of a dream, maybe through the gate, after weeping, lying on her side, because she’d been alone with whatever she needed. There are times when I care so little I want to maim the story’s concept, really hurt it, but then the story is my pride, my joy; still is.

    “Help me with the gate, Mr. Frank?” She walks through, looking over her shoulder at me.

    “I’ll be here at home, working. Nothing comes here to me but you. Come back soon, okay?” I tell her.

    It’s a strange feeling, this writing: the unfamiliar, yet familiar; the real, the deep sadness, and yet heart stopping relief. I will miss her so much. At the same time, for my purposes, she isn’t leaving fast enough.

    I cannot wait another minute to start caring so much.


  5. kellyshaw2001

    November 15, 2014 at 4:37 am

    Writing after a good Pinot!

    I live up on the bluff, behind the wrought iron gates, at that stage in my life when I no longer fear what the right hand column on a menu says. I buy three copies of books in hardback; one I can keep by the bathtub, one by my bed, and one in the car. I’m free to do absolutely nothing. I never have to do a really disagreeable thing, ever. Some economists and philosophers argue, with merit, that the sum total of a person’s possessions is an incomplete measure of wealth. True wealth, they say, also encompasses someone’s God-given talents and the breadth of his horizons. So I sit on my bench, behind my wrought iron gates, and wonder what a God given talent is?

    Is wealth really just a state of mind?

    After all, I’m not imagining that Mercedes 420SEL parked outside. Nor do I have to imagine what it’s like being a member of a country club. Yet to look at me, well you’d wonder why I don’t use a hangar for my clothes; I make my own wine, grow most of my own vegetables, and breed sheep.

    “Mr. Frank….hurry will you, I’ve brought a friend.”

    Ah, such a sound…such a child as no-one ever knew. Preoccupations of this kind are absolutely engrossing. Dearest Lori…

    “Coming Lori…” I stand my glass of wine on a rock, eager to be touched by her affections.

    I should have been amazed when I saw Lori standing at the gate holding the flipper of a King Emperor Penguin, hardly a native habitant of Northern California shores. My first consideration was to the strength of the wine, perhaps a little too early in the evening. My next, inquire what Lori is doing with such a friend.

    “That’s a fine friend you have there, Lori.”

    Maybe you know Lori as well I do, those auburn ringlets, the glint in the cast of her left eye, set so brightly in the face of a child poet, full of hope and promise.

    “He doesn’t have a name. Mr. Frank. I found him wandering. He looked lost.”

    “And you befriended him, Lori. He’s a very lucky penguin. Where are you taking him?”

    “I’m going to take him to the zoo.”

    There’s nothing complicated about childhood, just love them, hold them, read to them, and fill them up with fun. But most of all…listen to them. I once found a five pound note. My father listened. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘that’s a fine find. What will you do?’ I explained I would take it to the police station, hand it over to Jack Rafferty, maybe someone on the island really needs it. My father took me on the tractor. I gave it to Jack. ‘If no-one claims it by the end of the week, lad’ he told me, ‘it will be yours.’ And indeed, it became mine. Anyone who reads me knows what I did with it.

    “That’s a very wise decision, Lori.”

    “Bye, bye, Mr. Frank.”

    Oh those words crush me…she just arrived. I know there’s no keeping her. The dream girl is on a mission.

    “Bye, Lori, take care…come again…promise…”

    The two turned from the gate…and there they went…the King Emperor, and a penguin’s best friend, sauntering down the lane like they’d popped off the screen of a Disney movie. Poor Lori, she will miss her friend tomorrow. Children become so close so quickly…so deeply…it would be painful for a while.

    Generalizations about the lifestyles of the rich and anonymous are hazardous in the extreme. With my children grown I can afford a much more lavish lifestyle. But apart from the farm, my only indulgences are traveling to Europe frequently to visit my grandchildren, maybe vacation in Hawaii this winter. I may have met Lori (and her friend) but as yet, I have not met the Jones’ next door.

    It might have been a moment I’d forget. I could be convinced that the wine was indeed a little more alcoholic than intended, and sitting in these surroundings does encourage the mind to wander. I wondered how I could heal the pain of absence that would find Lori tomorrow.

    “Hey…Lori…wait…what will you do tomorrow?” Wanting to reassure her that she could come by, visit for a while.

    “Mr. Frank…I’m planning to take my friend to the movies!’

    Is there no end to the beauty of a child’s mind?

    I look at my glass, perfectly red. Wealth, I conclude, is a perfect state of mind (and a great pinot!).



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