Cypress Sisters

The legislative session races forward at the typical breakneck pace. The week-and-a-half space between big deadlines, scheduled to end Tuesday, feels like the interior of a pressure cooker; during sessions past I arrived early and left late to maintain what felt like control. Hard-earned lessons about the futility of such efforts, coupled with complete confidence in my teammates, inspire a different choice this time. Thursday morning I deliver Nick to school and rush toward a 9:30 am flight to California.  

We collect people, rice, $2 sweaters, wine bottles topped with glass corks, cabbage, cream, ibuprofen, costume jewelry at a bargain price point. Our suitcases, bags of books, groceries, and sweaters pile in the back of Tammi's car. The out-of-towners, three of our four, marvel at the actual warmth generated by the sun. We stand in front of a candy shop and giggle as we attempt supermodel poses. 

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We pile ourselves into the front of the car and talk rapidly while watching for the sharp points on the roof of the house on the bluff we'll occupy for a few days.

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Inside the Cypress Retreat House, so-named upon our arrival, perched above Portuguese Beach, we relax and find space scarce in our daily lives. Kismet brought us together a year ago on an island as Cypress Cabin roommates; the gnarled Cypress tree visible through the tall angled windows grows away from fierce ocean gusts and marks this as our place. 

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The surf song calls us and we gingerly tread down a steep, slippery, well-worn trail. 

We walk north and then we walk south. The water meets me where I am; the violent passion of the waves colliding, elbowing, thundering, fighting toward shore matches my insides. I dance and leap as the Pacific Ocean laps at my feet. Elke and Michelle capture my joy while Tammi watches and laughs along with me.


I collect flotsam and jetsam discarded by trees, rocks, and mollusks. I capture sand with the treasures to add to the jar in my office back home. 
 

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The fog is dense but the daylight is bright and we pull the blinds to cover the tall windows. We jump to our feet as the first few beats pump through the surround sound speakers. We're running in place, swiveling our hips, whipping our heads in circles to make our hair fly, then dropping to the floor to extend our legs into the air. We inch our shirts, sweaters off of one shoulder or two, exposing our beautiful 30s and 40s skin. We covet leg warmers, delicate dancer's skirts, leotards with the low-cut backs, and the muscles on the women flash dancing. We catcall the welder's guts and her comfort in her own skin. Spitfire through and through, we hope she taps into her hidden well of courage, that she uses her anger and grief as fuel. We lean forward as she walks across the floor in front of the row of stoic faces. She starts. She stops. She sees impatient boredom watching as she adjusts the record. Two of us leap up to mimic her feverish movements, awkward somersaults to her graceful leaps, and then skip the DVD backward so all four of us can dance along. Elke shimmies in front of me while I tap these words on my phone, daring me to join her, as Michelle leaps and Tammi grooves. Our only to-do for the weekend is done; I am no longer a Flashdance virgin.  

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Must-read books, images, dreams, art supplies, design ideas move between us. A challenge is articulated and possibilities spill forward in response. Our diverse backgrounds, careers, locations, and goals encourage artistic collaboration without the slightest hint of competition. I close my computer after updating my website and paint a background for inspiring words.

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Our only trip in the car between arrival and departure is to a remote restaurant with divine food and a charming atmosphere. More than one utensil hits the floor as we laugh without restraint. We whisper confidences while glancing around to ensure we aren't overheard. The single serving of creme brûlée placed in the middle of the table satisfies without adding bulk to our already stuffed stomachs. 

Back in pajamas, tucked away from the thick fog, we raptly listen as threads of our life stitch together the scraps of story we learned during our year apart. We stay awake into the early morning, telling truths and tying knots to strengthen our ties to each other.

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Nick tells everyone good morning via speakerphone as we lounge in our pajamas. Our biggest migration of the day is from the living room to the back deck. We read, write, laugh, stretch, and eat popcorn by the handful. The chilly air chases us back to the couches for another afternoon movie. 

A photo arrives from home and necessitates a pause; Steven's rented tuxedo, carefully combed hair, and grin jump at me as I zoom to get a closer look. I ache to be the photographer for a moment despite my comfort with the decision to proceed with this long-planned adventure. I anticipate the excitement I will hear in his voice as he tells me about his evening. I send him a text bidding a joyful experience. 

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We take turns rubbing our eyes. We change into our comfiest pants. Four art projects splay across the table for eight. Another delicious meal planned and prepared by Tammi, our self-appointed Fun Director, fuels a slight second wind. Written words flow and we discuss our craft. Yawns circle like a wave through the crowd during a summer baseball game. The tug of war between conversation and rest continues and we utilize as many moments together as possible. 

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We travel west, north, east, and south tomorrow. Looking at the clock, it is already tomorrow. 

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A game, a birthday sleepover, a medical appointment, a dance, a parade, do or die meetings, at least one eye-roll, good morning hugs, a million moments missed. We didn't let the questions, "where are you going, exactly? You've really only met the women once before?" slow us down. We trusted our instincts and believed our lifetime-ago island cabin connection would endure.

The classic advice to writers is to show, not tell. We pile our papers and books and leftover chocolates. We sit again and find reasons to not quite commit to packing. I edit and struggle to finish. When I write and I need a description, I close my eyes and scan the library of language stored deep in my mind. I sit with my fingers resting on the keys, searching and seeking without success to identify the right words. I stall. I surrender. It is time for breakfast and to prepare for reentry. I let our smiles speak for me.

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Until next time, Cypress Sisters.