katecolburn I am an attorney turning back home to being an actor and a writer.

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When Is It Time to Stop Changing

Settle down.  Those are the two words. Settle down.

Many settle early with childbirth, and a marriage that follows.  A self made frame  to feed and house.

Some settle after higher education and careers established. Holding off the settling until they are secure in the corporate scheme, self made business or capital venture.  Self security first.  The safety net before you settle down.

Settle Down!  When someone perceives my emotions run too high.

I settle down on a yoga matt.  I settle down watching a red tail hawk spin overhead. I settle down in the joy of having honey bees in our clover patch.  I settle down with fireflies at night. Caught in a moment of writing, acting, loving…I settle down.


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Happy New Year Manicure

Her name is Pea.  Yes like the vegetable.  She wears a red woven, string bracelet around her left wrist.  I instantly think Kabala. The mystical Judaism that Madonna, that paragon of all things hip, has made so popular.  I only think of it as a New York City or Los Angeles pheunomina. Not Durham, North Carolina where I sit and wait as Pea organizes the tools of her trade.  Pea is quite serious as she scraps off the old gel polish, soaks my hands, does my cuticles.  Her brow is tense in concentration. “Now,” she says it is time to pick the new color.”  I look through the sample card and see a deep purple that catches my eye. Pea responds, “Yes, but look at this.”  It is a deep red, blood red.  “This color give you power.  This color better for you.”  I immediately respond, “Yes, that’s it!”  Peas nods her head knowingly. “Yes, this is for you. Some power.”  How could she know? I decide to ask about her red woven bracelet. “I am a Buddhist.  I go to a temple in Greensboro. The priest blesses it and it protects me.  Brings me good luck.”  “You drive an hour to temple?”  “Oh yes, she says with my husband and brother-in-law, who is very funny. The trip goes by quickly.  We laugh. We talk.  Plus the Cambodian food is much better in Greensboro.  No place here to eat good Cambodian food.”

Cambodia.  My head floods with the Khmer Rouge, the Killing Fields and Swimming to Cambodia by Spalding Gray.  Pea takes on a new meaning in my mind.  A survivor.

She wears a ring on her left hand.  “Do you have any children?” She laughs, “A boy who thinks I should wear more clothes when I work. He is very concerned for me.” I look. I see a green, wrinkled tank top and matching sweater.  “You look fine to me.”  “Oh no,” she replies, “my son would have me covered head to toe like those Muslim women.”  “Well, what about your husband?”  “He does not care.”  “How old is your boy?” “Eleven,” Pea responds, “An eleven year old tyrant.”

Peas stops talking. Only to ask if I want the paraffin treatment. “No thank you.”  She then massages my hands deeply, hitting many beautiful places. I even soft moan.

“O.K. Miss Kate you are done.” I make sure to leave a generous tip.  As I am pulling on my coat, Pea comes to me say thank you and then reminds me to stay with the blood red color for a few months.  “You a sweet lady. You need it.”  I assure her I will.  Happy New Year.  You never know what you will discover engaging in the world.



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A Night of Life Music

“Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning.
Find some one who’s turns
And you will come around.”
Neil Young

Around and around I pump my bicycle pedals hard.
Counting off in my head, ” 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. This is always my count. Always has been since childhood. Running, “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8; waiting for something bad to pass, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Went to a numerologist once. She explained my name, my date of birth and my place of birth were all under the number eight. I don’t remember what that means. Only that I thought “Oh, that’s why I count in sequences of eight to focus my mind.” 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. I pump hard. Have to be on time. Must.
I arrive a half hour early to the Philharmoniker Building. The Berliner Philharmoniker. People, in their after work clothes, sit about the football space lobby having a champagne, a bier with pretzel or espresso with finger cakes. The air hums in German. A beautiful hum of communication. People young and old harmonizing in excitement. Programs wave through the air. A wondrous stop action photo hangs on a wall in the middle of it all. The Berliner in action. Blurred flying arms hold steady instruments. I look at the photograph and ache to get into the space where the Philharmoniker plays. A sweet lady stops me with a name tag,”Isn’t it wonderful?” “Yes, yes so much power,” I reply. “So much.” She takes me to my seat. Her hands are warm with gentle direction.
The auditorium fills. Low humming close to a stillness shifts through the bouncing walls. Zubin Mehta conducts tonight. Seventy-nine years old. The orchestra appears and like a choreographed ballet dressed in black; the players take their place. The artists before me palpitate with talent. Then, Mr. Mehta limps, demurely from the wings to the conductor’s platform. Climbing the platform, his body transforms. He raises his arms, his back straightens and he begins to move. I swear he is twenty-nine. The orchestra responds with such emotional precision following the empowered arms. I am gone, transported into a Camille Saint-Saens Symphonie. My heart flutters out.
“Sweet Jesus”, I have never heard classical music or any music like this. Working, breathing as one body of instruments; the music moves to the walls and back and back into my soul. The room is breathing. Zubin really starts to move, the instrumentalists rush up to greet him with their sound. I am hit by the strange notion that this is better than U-2 Live or Bruce Springsteen when I saw him in my college days with the E Street Band.
I can not really explain. I cry for the beauty of mankind. What a wonder we are. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Grace. Amazing Grace.

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Azdin in Morocco

I met him on Facebook. After years of being on Facebook; Azdin is the first person I met. I am glad I did.

Azdin lives in a small town, the name I will not reveal for his anonymity. It is in the cliffs, about 20,000 people. The town came to life as a salt mine, and according to Azdin, as the salt died so goes the town. Another word for such a town is poverty. No work.

Azdin has some college education. He speaks classical Arabic and English. He pleads that all he wants is to work hard in America and escape Morocco. Morocco, the land that I have always found mysterious, romantic in my dreams. For him it is a place of entrapment. Arranged marriage. Living with his mother and father. A sister. A brother. And no productive work. He believes in G-d. Is it a G-d that has betrayed him? I do not know.

Azdin’s plan is to get to America by meeting an American woman on the Internet. Falling in love. Long distance. Having her pay for his travel to the States where he will work hard at any job and be a good husband.

I was to be one of those women. He is 20 years old. I told him I have a son of 22 years old and was happily married; his tactic had to switch. I believe no evil intent of this man. I believe, like many caught in poverty, his search is to escape. It is no wonder so many turn to militancy. A gun in hand, a purpose in the heart to destroy that which is perceived to keep them down. Be it America or their own country.

For Azdin the boredom eats away at his spirit. He does not leave his house. He sleeps very little. He is consumed in sadness. In America he would be part of the Prozac Nation.

Azdin’s mother finally broke out in anger. He does not share the words she hurled,only that his heart is broken. He is abandoned by his family. He is alone. He looks to me as his only true friend as I have spent days reading his thoughts and responding with kindness and blessings. It has only been three days and this is when I know. Boundary Issues!! The red flags wave.

Red Flags, in the past, have taken me time to recognize. I still think most people that I meet are good, even if misguided. Some people are predators and my instincts have not always been strong.

I make no judgement on Azdin. May all of Us pursue. With Passion.

He no longer contacts me.

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July 13, 2015. It is seven o’clock. Evening. Ninety degrees in Carrboro, North Carolina. The sun is not yet down.
I water the garden. A garden that is turning brown.
Flopping irises, the droop of the oat straw, the new cedar struggles to stand.
I water the garden. Fire flies start to appear, birds move closer and
the mulch holds the water near.
I water the garden, watching droplets form on tips of green.
When I was six my sister Molly told me the droplets your earrings for the fairies of the garden.
I believed her then. I believe her now. As more water pours into the soil and the surface comes alive.

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Fragile Facts In Process

I am a mother. My mother took me to my first public library in Phoenix Arizona. I rode on the back of her bike. The library, the books became my kingdom for building a world that was not my world. Reading absorbed me. Writing threw out my secret feelings. I am a daughter. A daughter who watched her mother beat up her three older sisters in such a rage. My father left the house. When he did not leave the house, I went with him to play tennis. Well, I watched him play tennis. And fed the ducks at the pond near the tennis courts and romped my way through Encanto Park. I am my father’s daughter. Afterward, we would go to a tavern. I loved the darkness, mystery, people who I did not know and most especially the neon sign that looked like real running water. The cool waters where Budweiser came from. My dad drank Bud and I felt he was an important person. People liked my dad. As I drank my Shirley Temples they would ruffle my hair and tell me I was my dad’s spitting image. I liked that. Even if I was a girl. The land of the sky blue waters stopped when we came home late on a Sunday with booze on my dad’s breathe. Cornered by my mom’s jealousy, she held one hand on my shoulder and asked me where we had been. I didn’t want to tell, but I did. My dad had trouble that night.

We camped most holidays. Six of us crammed in a VW Beetle towing an Apache pop-up canvas tent. After the divorce, my mother and I lived in that Apache camping tent in a trailer park. I suppose squabbling over the money; it was all we could afford. We lived on Kentucky Fried Chicken and frozen eclairs from the supermarket. My mom taught me how to dumpster dive for thrown away food from the El Ranchero Market before it became a popular movement in the big cities. Freeganism. A bruised apple, a slightly blackened cauliflower, bananas just a bit too ripe were part of the bounty of our table. I felt like a pirate sorting through the treasures of the grocery store’s trash. It wasn’t a sad time. It was a time of adventure and learning to survive.

My sister Kathy, who had fled with her husband Michael to skip-out of Vietnam, sent me a box of pastels and a purple amethyst ring. The pastels came in a wooden box with a golden latch and were made in France. That is when I started to draw and think of traveling to places that loved pastels. The ring fell down the drain pipe in the community shower room at the trailer park. The lady was nice. Large and stooping to undo the loop in the drain that might have caught my ring. But it didn’t. Our camp was right beside the railroad tracks and the train came through every night. The fierce engine sounded like it would flatten our canvas home, but it never did. Then there was the softness of the box cars swaying on the rails to lull me back to sleep. My mom would talk of the depression and how men came by their farm to pick up some work or looking for food. My grandma Leta had five children and a husband hooked on silo corn booze. But my mom remembers Leta could always find a chore to for a man to do and a fat back sandwich to fill his belly. These men traveled on the trains. Sometimes I thought I could hear someone in the brush outside our camp when the train had passed. Mom settled my fears explaining no one rides these rails. It was the 1970’s.


Christmas Eve in the Dog Park

It is a lonely expanse  of space; created by metal fencing in the midst of Anderson Park in Carrboro, NC.  It is a place where the soil is always moist and the smell of dog urine drifts of up lightly through the pines surrounding the perimeter.  The dog park is a place where unleashed dogs can run and interact with their species. The dog park is like a self help book suggestion for dogs trying to socialize. Here dogs run, chase, nip, pee, hump, roll and dump.

Tonight it is Christmas Eve. December 24, 2013.  Daisy (an 82 pound Black Lab and Rhodesian Ridge Back Hound blend) and I come to mix it up.   She with her brethren and I with mine. We both look out the car windows as we drive up. It is going on five pm and the place is empty.  There is another car parked, but no one to be seen.  Not unusual.  There is the walk around the Anderson Park Pond or the children’s playground.  Just being in the open air will be good for us and Daisy might run after a ball or two.  I open the car door and she runs to the dog park gate.  I pull on my coat, hat and gloves and trundle after her in my winter boots.  Opening the gates of the park, Daisy bolts into the open space to quickly take a pee.  I follow and sit on one of the many open benches as Daisy grazes through the smells, marking her way.  It is quiet except for the lone call of a Canadian Goose.  It is twilight. A brownish twilight.  I look to Daisy and she looks out to the pond.  I hear the sound of a voice.  I sense from the sound a native, rural North Carolinian man and the sound of children.

“Seth, Seth come back over here. It’s time to be a’goin’ home.   Come on boy.”  Seth is the name of my mother’s father, whom I never met.  In family pictures he is darkly handsome like Valentino.  In my mother’s stories he is a violent drunk.  Like I say, I never met him.  He died of tuberculosis in his forties somewhere in Michigan.  “Seth!”  I look up to see Seth running across the empty parking lot from the pond.  Dressed in a dark blue snowsuit he moves swiftly yet stiffly in his toddler body.  Seth has seen Daisy.  Seth has pinpointed some fun.  His daddy is dressed in camouflage from head to toe, like he is ready to hunt deer. I hate camouflage.  There is a slur to his voice that says alcohol, but thank God his tone says nice.  He is followed by a ten year old who is underdressed in a pair of pants and cotton long sleeves.  Seth makes it to the gate of the dog park.  His daddy and brother follow.  “You wanna go in there and see that doggy?  Alright boy,” he signals to the ten year old, “open up the gate.”

The boy does as he is told and little Seth comes tumbling through the moist dog earth ground.  Seth gets himself up, I can hear his excited, asthmatic like breathe, and he runs halfway to the bench where I sit.  Daisy is pressed against my legs.  She is uneasy, protective.  I get a better look at the head to toe camouflage and a better look at the eyes of Daddy.  My inner alarm rings partially of prejudice and partially of recognizing the eyes of a drunk.  My years as a Judicial Magistrate have tuned me into those eyes, that look.  Seth keeps leading the charge.

“Your dog friendly?” Seth is almost to us.  “Well, she is over eighty pounds and if she gets excited she jumps.”  I have a hold on Daisy’s harness.  Seth picks up a ball on the way.  I can feel Daisy’s urge to leap.  The ten year old cries out, “Hey Seth come on back over here!  Best watch out for that big dog.”  Seth stops, four feet away and is beckoned back to his brother.  The man keeps striding forward till he is near me by some three feet.  “Well my boys are used to dogs.  I used to raise Rotweillers.  You know, the real German kind. They ain’t afraid of dogs.”  The man is thin.  His cheek bones flush out in his face.  “Made a real good living out of that for awhile, but then…well just had to stop that.”  I am thinking, “puppy mill” and “animal cruelty,” but I respond. “Yea I can see your little one has no fear, but have him come up slowly and he needs to drop the ball.  I don’t want my dog to jump him.”  I keep a hold on Daisy.  “OK Seth you heard the lady, go say hi to the dog.”  Seth drops the ball and runs to Daisy, arms out stretched.  Daddy is right, no fear.  Seth’s small hand comes to Daisy’s nose.  Daisy licks Seth and he squeals with a delight.  Seth and Daisy see eye to eye. I still hold tight to her harness.

“Yeah we love dogs, don’t we boy?”  The ten year old nods, but does not come close to Daisy. His Dad keeps his distance too. Seth is now running around collecting balls, whispering under his breath, “Doggy, Doggy!” Seth has a lot of mucus.  Can’t talk real loud.   “Yeah we took care of a dog one time for a guy who was a computer technician.  My wife saw the ad on Craig’s list.  What kind of dog was that boy?”  The ten year old bites his lip trying to remember.  “It was a tiny thing,” he says. “Jumped around a lot.” “Jack Russell?” offers the boy. “Yeah, yeah that was the dog boy!  Name was Ruby.  Real sweet dog.  But what was she boy?”  “Jack Russell Terrier!”, the boy offers again. By now Seth has found every abandoned ball in the park and dropped them at Daisy’s feet. Daisy struggles with me to get free and all I can see is “Toddler trampled by 85 lb. dog at Anderson Park on Christmas Eve.”  The man is oblivious.  The ten year old tells Seth to not bother the dog.  “Yeah, what the hell was that dog?” the man is scratching under is camouflage hat, he has dark greasy hair. “JACK RUSSEL TERRIER, that is right boy! Jack Russell Terrier. Tiny thing, but I grew real attached.  Didn’t I boy?”  The boy nods as he watches Seth start throwing his stash of balls for Daisy.  She jumps at my hold.  Seth is breathing thickly.  He is thrilled.

“Yeah she was a sweet dog.  And I got to know the know the guy real good too.  You know he would call every week about Ruby.  We kept the dog for over a year.  The man and me would talk together every week.  He was a real nice man.  He paid us real good for keep’n his dog.”  The man looks off into the pines.  He pulls down his cap.  I have let go of Daisy. She has seen a dog walking outside the fence of the park; barking and jumping.  Seth has moved back into the arms of his brother.  And Daddy seems lost in thought; captured.

He finally stops his moment of silence and takes a look at me.  “Yeah, well he came and picked up his dog.  Said he would be back for Christmas, but we haven’t heard a thing.  He ain’t go’n to come back. Hasn’t called. You know what is strange? How I come so close to that dog and that man.  Now they are both gone. You know….”  “Yeah,” I reply, “people can just sometimes leave your life.”  “Yes, lady you are right.  A person can just go.  But I miss him and I miss that dog.”  He kicks at the moist dirt.  The sole of one shoe is flapping open. “I’m sorry,” I say, “Sorry you lost a friend.”

There is an open moment.  Daisy is now chasing balls thrown by Seth.   “Yeah,” he says, “makes me sad.  Well boys time to go!”  Seth’s hand is grabbed by his brother.  “C’mon Seth.”  Daddy starts walking away. Seth is waving good-bye.  I call out, “Merry Christmas!”  “Oh yeah,” the man says.  His back is turned to me.  “Merry Christmas”  He stops at the gate, turns and yells, “Thanks for the listen.”  I am back to holding onto Daisy.  They exit the dog park and slowly make their way to a what looks like a nice car in the near dark parking lot.  I wonder if the mama is the bread winner.  A nurse?  I let go of Daisy and she runs towards the gate to smell their exit.

Well I figured him wrong.  Yes lady I did.  Merry Christmas.