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Three Short Stories

Story #1: 


Since we’ve been in Paris, we’ve met more than a few American women who’ve lived here longer than we. In response to our question, “What brought you to Paris?” we’ve heard more than a few answer, “I fell in love with a Frenchman. But we’re no longer together.”


Story #2:


We’ve also heard a few people say that they don’t believe in the inner world, the spiritual, the Invisibles, the gods, the stars, magic or myth.

Each of these is a story.

A story that someone has lived.

A story that someone tells him- or herself.


Story #3: 


Both these stories make me think of a third story, a story I lived, which is related to both these prior stories.

In 1994, I was living by myself in an apartment in Venice, California, with a view of the sea from Malibu to Marina del Rey. I had moved there during the Los Angeles riots of 1993. As I moved in around Halloween, I watched the terrible Malibu fires from my windows, an orange snake slithering along the black mountains.

In early 1994, the Northridge earthquake struck my building so forcefully that I leapt out of bed and under my pine dining room table before I was fully awake. I thought the building would collapse and that my life would end there.



And a love relationship ended there as well. I looked back on the two of us and wondered, What was I thinking? He wanted to live in the country; I in town. He wanted more children; I wanted none. He liked constant movement and social life; I liked a balance between going out and staying in. He rarely read; books are as real to me as people and just as important. He was a hearty drinker and smoker; I cared about health. He had no interest in his own inner life; I’d gone as far as I could in exploring my own.

We weren’t suited. Yet we’d stayed together for several years.



Didn’t I know who I was by now? Didn’t I know what I needed in a partner? I felt such weariness, despair, in imagining ever going through this entanglement and breakup again with another man, when anyone looking on from above could have told us: Impossible! Out of the question!

I needed some invisible being who knew all about such things, an expert in love, someone like… Aphrodite! Yes, I needed to have a serious talk with the goddess of beauty and love.



That night I wrote in my journal 100 things I wanted in a mate.

I awakened the next morning with the thought, “Too greedy. Narrow it down to ten.”

It was surprisingly easy. I wrote the following ten things I wanted in a mate in one steady flow:



* Mutual chemistry.

* Mutual adoration.

* Fidelity.



* Communication.

* Has done some serious inner work in healing childhood wounds.



* A reader.

* Preferably a creative type who is capable of being as much of a muse to me as I to him.



* Counter-cultural roots.

* Does not want children, or at least any more than he already has.

* Wants to travel the world.



I said to Aphrodite: “Please bring me a man with all ten of these attributes, or else, if it’s not meant to be, I’ll have the richest life a single woman can have.”

“In the meantime, I’ll work on overcoming my stage fright, and find a place to read my poems in public in Los Angeles.”

I then forgot about the prayer, and began focusing on poetry.

Three Fridays later, I went with an acquaintance to a reading in a Santa Monica bookstore called Midnight Special. (Like so many independent bookstores, it no longer exists.)

I saw a man in a white shirt and Levi’s in the far right of the front row. He looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure from where.

He, who was hosting, stood up halfway through the lineup and read three poems. One about horses, one about a former love, one about taking his dying father to Paris.



I fell back in my chair, barely stopping myself from falling over completely.

“What just happened?!” said my companion.

“I don’t know,” I said. But I did. An arrow had hit me right through the heart.

This is not a metaphor. I felt an arrow pierce my heart with such force it knocked me backwards.

After he read, this poet mentioned that every Saturday afternoon, there was a poetry workshop at Midnight Special that three poets took turns leading. It was free, he said, and all were welcome; he’d worked on his own poems there.



That night I wrote in my journal that I would marry this man.

The next day I awakened early and canceled several appointments. I opened my journal to a poem I’d written about driving through Navajo country in northern Arizona on one of my journeys to pick up paintings as an art dealer between New Mexico, Arizona and California.

I shaped and edited this poem for hours, then drove to the Promenade for the poetry workshop. It was led that week by the very poet whose work had knocked me out the night before.

I had had a better track record as a muse for male artists than I had received from them. So I was nervous when it came time to read my poem.

Richard—for that was his name—began talking about my poem as if he were an x-ray technician of poetry. He said that in the poem’s central metaphor, the unraveling of love being like the unraveling of your own DNA, I'd woven a braid between the three strands of the natural, human and spirit worlds. He then said something so humble that I found it hard to believe: “You’ve done something here that I don’t know how to do, that I’d like to learn how to do.”



Darling one, I said, silently, we have many things to learn from each other, and I for one, will be your glad and willing student and teacher.

There were other poems discussed that day, but I don’t remember them.

After the workshop, our ritual was to all walk down the Third Street Promenade to the Congo Square coffee house. When a group of poets get together, the stories fly.

He and I were startled to learn how many of the same places we’d lived, the same events we’d attended— demonstrations, rock concerts, art events—in the late ‘60s and early '70s in the Bay Area, and later, film and writing conferences in the '80s and '90s in L.A. How was it possible that in more than twenty years we’d never met? Yet this explained why he’d first looked so familiar to me.

Just as it took three weeks from the time I’d sent my wish to Aphrodite to meeting Richard, so it took another three weeks for the romance to burst into bloom.

One Friday night at a Midnight Special poetry reading, I showed him two poems and asked him which I should bring for editing to the Saturday workshop.



“Either,” he said, “Yours are always wonderful. Let’s go get some dinner.” He took my arm and we strolled two blocks to the Broadway Deli, and that was it for him.

Love came aurally for me. For him it came through touch.

In another three weeks we were talking marriage.

What does this story have to do with stories #1 and #2?



Story #3 happened because I do not believe story #2, that the Invisibles do not exist, and because I asked an Invisible, the goddess, Aphrodite, for a story that was not story #1, a story of infidelity and heartbreak.

Richard, it turned out, lived four blocks away from me, on Paloma Avenue in Venice.

Aphrodite is associated with the sea, scallop shells, dolphins, bees, honey, apples, pomegranates, myrtle, rose trees, lime trees, clams, pearls, sparrows and swans. And doves.

And you probably know that paloma means dove.





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Reader Comments (20)

It's stunning as usual. But then again, they are always stunning. Keep them coming. Love Carol

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 1:06 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

This story reminds me of a rainbow touching the ground, like Richard's photo. I never posted on the entry the Tree of Life, but this story illustrates what I wanted to say to you. Kaaren, you are so grounded in heavenly myth, your work is so abundantly steeped in myth, it is like roots that ground you where ever you go, in whatever you write. It is a rich world you live in, full of pomegranates and doves. When you tell this fantastic tale about finding your ideal love, I know that you really did ask for "divine" (she was so divine!) intervention and got it! Myths have always intrigued me from a distance, but you bring them into the bookstore for a reading. Aphrodite strikes Kaaren and I believe it, even though I barely know Aphrodite. And it's funny, though most of this story happened in your past, in Venice, your voice is now feels informed by Paris. Oh and that photo with the mirror held me a long time in dark fascination. And the whimsical ones, interspersed with blood and a blood red heart, made me enjoy the courtship even more, from Richard's point of view. You guys inspire me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 2:20 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Sherry

Lovely posting. You who believe that the Gods and Goddesses (mythology) are still at play in the world have transformed your world (husband and wife) into a living myth. I envy you both! And I'll see you soon in Paris. Much love, John

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 3:17 | Unregistered CommenterL. John Harris

Thank you so much, Carol! We've known each other through days in Santa Fe and Los Angeles, and one of these days, you'll be visiting Connie and us in Paris. Keep those poems and stories coming, too!


Kaaren (& Richard)

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 3:59 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard


I was moved to tears by your comment. This is all the confirmation I'll ever need that, in spite of feeling I've revealed too much that's personal after writing a post, it spoke to one person, inspired someone. If these stories bring myth alive to you, then they've achieved their aim. You help me to realize what it is we're trying to do, to bring alive a way of seeing the world. Aphrodite is very alive, but you are wrong about barely knowing her. She is alive in every page of your novel, Elephant Milk. She's alive in the way you live.

I understand now why many writers find it easier to write about their past from the vantage point of another continent. Neither of us would have written this journal if we hadn't moved to Paris.

That photo of the mirror is actually a window. Richard says that the graffiti was done around the hole in the glass.

Thank you for this moving appreciation, Diane.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 4:20 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Absolutely inspiring!! I find myself in the same place you were in 1994. Thanks for this wonderful piece! Hugs to you both from Los Angeles!

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 6:43 | Unregistered CommenterKarla V. Salazar

A recent book review in Paste Magazine (by Amy McDaniel,) uses a phrase for memoir: “inalienable reliance on—meditation and contemplation.”

Your eyes and hands and hearts wide open. yes! & the myth of "finding" gains walking shoes under your finessed and raw words & images. And so again: merci.

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 7:32 | Unregistered Commentermargo

This is so beautiful. Oh, that arrow direct to the heart! Mere mortals are no match for Aphrodite. When you came to the part about R. taking you by the arm for a stroll to dinner, I thought, YES! :) Even though I know and love you both, this made me as thrilled as if you were just now discovering one another... but I suppose you two are continually discovering one another, even now, in the city of love and dreams.

(And I love the photo of the heart enclosing the wound in the glass...where one might destroy, another heals.)

Thank you for sharing this...it warmed my spirit to think of you two and your courtship, and how far you've come.

Much love,

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 9:51 | Unregistered Commenterdawna

so sweet and inspiring - much love to you both!

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 20:23 | Unregistered CommenterbB

My favorite photo out of a slew of favorites: the faithful, reliable little car that says "hello." Impeccable eye.

In my more innocent days, I loved psychedelics because they were a wakeup call that reality is multifaceted. Your story is psychedelic in the very best way: it calls us to see the usually unseen, and to recall forgotten things. My husband first walked into my life at a play audition. I didn't imagine but actually saw a halo around him, heard an angelic choir behind him. (They weren't verbose: all they sang was "AAAAAAAA"! I felt dizzy and had to sit down.) It had happened only once before, with a boy named Graziano (the one who brings grace), older brother to my best friend. That first love affair was routed by an impossible age barrier. He was twelve, I was four. Thankfully, the second one took.

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 21:35 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Dear John,

Thank you! We don't "believe" that the invisibles are still at play. We're "aware of" them. They speak to us. And as far as living a myth, we're all living a myth whether we know it or not. You are a treasure and will have a magnificent marriage one of these days. We'll see you in two weeks for drinks and dinner and adventures!

Have you seen "Midnight in Paris" yet? I think you would love it.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 22:26 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Karla, Karla, Salazarla!

So great to hear from you. I wish someone had told me when I was your age that the way for love to work is to ask for more of what you need, not less. It seems to me that we're given what we ask for. It takes some of us a long time to know that it's possible to be with someone with whom you're truly simpatico. It's inevitable that you'll find it. Just don't settle for less.

Where are you working now? Are you still doing ecological work?

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Friday, June 3, 2011 at 7:48 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

Dear Margo,

This is a key part of memoir, isn't it? Meditation and contemplation have always interested me.

What a wonderful thing to say: and yes, it is hard, as you know, to live in this city without "your eyes and hands and hearts wide open."

I think Homer had it exactly right, and it's always been true, that the invisibles are always around us, waiting for us to ask them CLEARLY and humbly for what we really need.

Thank you for your grace.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Friday, June 3, 2011 at 7:50 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

Dear Dawna,

Oh, I'm so glad you made that connection, that Aphrodite sends her son, Eros, to shoot arrows into the hearts of mortals. I certainly didn't expect love to hit me this way, but afterwards, I was amazed at the mythical exactness.

And yes, although I knew that Richard was already mine (because when Aphrodite is involved, it IS going to happen), he didn't entirely know for three long weeks. And then as he took my arm, I could feel, NOW he knows. A sweet sweet moment. And you know exactly where all these places are in Venice and Santa Monica.

Don't you think couples are just like individuals in that you never come to the end of the mystery of your own soul, just as you never arrive at the end of understanding another human?

It took us both so long to get love right. I marvel at couples like my parents who had the luck to find the right fit at the very beginning of their adult lives.

That's a nice distinction between the rock thrown at the window, and the hearts enclosing it. Richard thanks you.

Much love and gratitude,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Friday, June 3, 2011 at 7:51 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

Oh, how I wish I knew who bB is. Could it be Betsy Brunski? Could it be Betsy Bremer? Or even Brandon Brown? Or is it my friend who's nickname is Bebe? Who could it be now?

And we thank you!


Kaaren (& Richard)

Friday, June 3, 2011 at 7:54 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear Anna,

Richard thanks you for appreciating his eye for the eccentric.

Yes, that is what psychedelics did for our generation. You cannot imagine that reality is dull or one-dimensional if you've ever had that experience. It was wondrous how it opened our eyes to the complexity and radiance of the unseen and the long-forgotten.

I am absolutely fascinated by your description of meeting Eric. I'd never heard that story (though I knew you met him during a play in which you both had parts). And "Ahhhhh" may be the primal sound of bliss. I can see how you might have immediately perceived something angelic in Eric's nature, since it's been proven since by his kindness and philanthropic helpfulness to everyone around him.

Now about that first love. I love this story. I would like to hear it in more detail. It reminds me of my first love, also an Italian, whose name meant "ambrosia." Perhaps I'll tell that story in another post, and you can tell us more about your Italian. It just makes sense that you would have fallen in love for the first time at the age of... FOUR.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Friday, June 3, 2011 at 7:56 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear Kaaren and Richard:

However many times I hear the story of way the two of you met, I feel a sense of joy. Your meeting is one of the most romantic that I know of. And now, seeing your story in prose, written from Paris, in a mythic context, I am filled once again with the joy of being in love, of everlasting love and the union of two artists.

Much love,


Monday, June 6, 2011 at 17:48 | Unregistered Commenterjon hess


You're as good as Aphrodite herself, so full of love!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 23:10 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear Richard and Kaaren... oh, and Marley!

I am so glad I waited to read this entry on the weekend, during the day, while I'm still awake and not exhausted from the franetic pace of a Monday through Friday work week. Late at night I have forced myself to read your posts, my brain scrambled, my head dizzy from thinking too hard and for too long, day in and day out. I drink from them as if they are life's blood itself - so rich with life, and passion and fun. I guess I'm sounding pretty pathetic, right? What a gift you new Parisians are bestowing on us Americans - sharing your new adventures with a clarity and genuineness I have not felt in a long time in this country. I feel we are allowed to peak through a snapshot of time, of recent experiences or reminesces... I LOVED hearing your story about meeting Richard again, Kaaren!

It's like having a favorite children's book read over and over - you hear it again, but you're different, you experience it differently - perhaps a new nuance you hadn't heard before. It reassures me that perhaps, in this lifetime, I might meet someone too.

Not being the incredible writer that you are Kaaren - I too would ask of Aphrodite MOST of the list of ten things you wanted in a man... you were so right on!

Ok so Richard - the photo of the damn clown ballerina from Venice had me laughing out loud - the tree canopy was wonderful - and those toes of the MODO were divine. Best part of the shot.

Tell Marley that Frankie is sitting on my lap as I type this, not caring that my leg has gone to sleep and that his white hair is all over my black pants.

Thank you for such lovely stories...



Monday, June 13, 2011 at 3:06 | Unregistered CommenterLisa - remaining Head

Dear Lisa,

What an enchanting response! Honestly, I can't imagine your not finding your mate: I do think you should add "loves animals and MODOs" to your list. Though I love birds, I don't know the birder lingo and had to ask Richard what MODO means. (For anyone wondering, this is birder shorthand for Mourning Dove.)

I've always loved the Ballerina Clown--it embodies the eccentric whimsy of Venice--but Richard's use of it in this post made me laugh.

You'd also better put "very smart" on your list. Bird-brained you are NOT. I can't see you with anyone who's not très intelligent.

Lisa, you make us so happy with your appreciative words. Knowing what you do for the environment, I love how hard you work. But I think you need a bigger staff (as you well know), so that you have more time to circulate and meet this mate of yours who's anticipating meeting you at this very minute!

We love you and your furry cat and your MODOs,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 13:30 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

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