Holger seemed unconcerned with geological instability at the stem end of earth.

Friend with me, the three towers in background

“I wonder when the last rock slide occurred,” I said to Holger, my German hiking companion, as we scrambled, occasionally on all fours, to scale this steep rubble. Our target point, atop a nearly vertical incline, was the lookout for the three towers.

It was another wet and windy day in Torres del Paine, Chile’s national park where these Patagonian treasures have grown up over the eons. Holger seemed unconcerned with geological instability here at the stem end of the earth, where tectonic plates meet. …

Corpses in the desert can vanish as thoroughly as those at sea. Chewed, gnawed, nibbled, feasted upon by native beasts; desiccated, churned in hostile elements, blown to oblivion; blood to rust, bones to dust, flesh to flakes.

It’s crab season! Time to get cracking.

A person wearing an apron, preparing crabs at a workstation with a brown-tiled countertop.
A person wearing an apron, preparing crabs at a workstation with a brown-tiled countertop.
Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. Photo: Fred Hsu via Wikipedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Consider a mollusk such as the escargot. It would be nothing but a garden pest without a megadose of garlic and butter. On the other hand, Dungeness, the crustacean indigenous to the West Coast, needs absolutely nothing — not even a pretty French name — to elevate it. The sweet, briny meat can actually improve your garlic and butter.

I have found no evidence that you could say the same for other types of crabs — blue, for instance.

“For many West Coast seafood lovers, including me,” writes Mark Bittman in his book Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and…

Tango induces tribal love. After tango, coupling with just one feels sort of claustrophobic.

Photo by Preillumination SeTh on Unsplash

No matter the stranger’s laser blue eyes and satin silver hair. The magic resides in the embrace and he knows how to power it from his core through my torso. The music begins and we are dancing airborne tango.

Airborne tango occurs when my partner and I are so in sync we leave the ground. One of tango’s basic tenets is that one leg is always free. So, for split seconds during weight shifts, both feet seem to dance on air. If cars hydroplane on wet pavement why can’t fleet-footed dancers generate uplift on a wood floor? At the Verdi…

You are your writing, your writing is you. You only feel separate until you journey through the process.

We are one with the bull. Wikimedia Commons

The Ten Bulls or Ox-herding Pictures date back to about the 11th century in China, representing progress toward enlightenment, at a time when Buddhism was traveling from India, taking root in other parts of Asia. The childlike drawings serve as an allegory for moods, emotions, and shades of resistance that many writers experience.

1. Searching for the Ox — Sitting down on a Chair/Ox to find the Story. You & Story are separate. “Everything is shifting and unsteady.” Frisson of excitement and/or agitation.

2. Seeing the Traces Aha! Moments. You spill some ink, symbols on a blank page. Flashes…

“The primal calmness is perhaps the same as the Peace of God.”

The stunning Mt. Fitz Roy, Argentina. Photo by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash

Sam and I were traveling overland in Patagonia, the geographic region that straddles Chile and Argentina, and is one of those places like Amazonia or Appalachia, that is hard to pinpoint precisely. Maps seldom commit to its borders. Even Bruce Chatwin in his seminal work, In Patagonia, was off by some 20 miles on its northern border.

Generally, Patagonia starts around the “waist” of cone-shaped South America, below Argentina’s west-east flowing Rio Colorado, and tapers down the continent to Cape Horn, near the stem-end of the earth. …

Its glaciers are more accessible to ice lovers than anywhere else.

Grey Glacier. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Alaska may have half of the world’s glaciers, but there are many in Patagonia—and the boast is that they are easier to get close to. There is a lot to be said for getting safely close to these flashy mounds of densely packed six-sided crystals, hearing them groan under their own weight, then thunderously calve.

My first day in Torres del Paine was a memorable wind-blown hike to the Three Towers. On my second day, I headed for the ice, starting with Grey’s Glacier. The Southern Patagonian ice Field feeds Grey, which creeps along the banks of the same-named lake…

I had anticipated a downer. Wrong. These are “unstuffy” people.

Nomadland’s Frances McDormand at 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Photo Wikimedia Commons

Based on snippets of media chat I had formed the impression that Chloe Zhao’s film “Nomadland” was a sullen portrait of depressed people who fell through the cracks, had no homes, no money, and were forced into bleak survival mode just getting by, living on the road in cars, vans, or RVs. Not quite.

The versatile Frances McDormand, a 2020 Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress, plays the lead as sixty-something Fern who is grieving losses, of husband (died of cancer) and home. Fern was living in Empire, Nevada, a small town built around industry—a gypsum plant. The plant closed…

Are we a reckless cult, hopelessly addicted, or mystics with a higher calling? Whichever, our tango bubbles endured.

The Milonga. Photo of pastel art by Michael Fisher, Portland, OR artist

I saw my first live Argentine tango around 1994 in the musical “Forever Tango,” performed in a Beverly Hills theater. I found it enjoyable but not a dance for me. I had long been a jazz, tap, and swing dancer. Tango looked too subtle, sedate, and slow for my liking.

Fast forward about eight years. I was taking dance classes in Lindy and West Coast swing, salsa, ballroom, and anything that jumped and jived at the San Francisco Metronome (sadly gone now). Friends kept urging you have to try tango. “I am taking a class in American tango,” I said…

I’m a natural em dash person — nudging my way in with two arms outspread — longest in the family of horizontal punctuations.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The fifth of ten children, I was born with siblings on either side of me — like a verb, say, framed by nouns and adjectives. I was a middle kid — a fulcrum — in the middle of a long sentence of ten—10, includes me—siblings.

Were they holding me up or holding me in? Was I reaching out to them or holding them at an arm’s length either side? Either way, I’m comfortable with meaning streaming out or streaming in from both arms — all the time. I feel connected to the letter this way.

Birth order is destiny.


Camille Cusumano

Author(ity) in/on San Francisco. Novel, essay, memoir. Teaches tango. Travel, outdoors, culture. Former editor at VIA Mag.

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