Head…hijacked

“The first — killing the Angel in the House — I think I solved. She died. But the second, telling the truth about my own experiences as a body, I do not think I solved. I doubt that any woman has solved it yet. The obstacles against her are still immensely powerful — and yet they are very difficult to define.” — Virginia Woolf

Lately I’ve been so up in my own head with work that when I go outside I have to force myself to look at the world. So, I’ve started naming things as I walk…tree, roses, leaf, sign. If I don’t do this my walks are daydreams, lacking so much presence that I have to refocus.

I don’t know what to say today, so I’ll lead off with that. Lately my head has been hijacked by to-do lists and narcissists and the endless opinions about how to deal with narcissists. Kick them in the privates was one piece of good advice.

I’m ideal bait for narcissists and mean people in general. They see my kindness as weakness, and they rent space in my head. I’m always hyper-vigilant, whether there’s a threat or not, but this just compounds it. And I spent most of my waking hours today determining how to deal with it. And just for a few seconds I feel sorry for said people, and then I snap out of that really quick.

Many mental disorders are induced by acute stress or traumatic events. And heap on top of that a lack of community, very little vacation time, and you are a recipe for obesity, physical and mental illness. One of my fun little mental quirks is spartanism — I sometimes get so obsessed with getting rid of things that it becomes compulsive, and I have to CBT my way out of that mess. I’m hoping I don’t end up with a home with no furniture or lights, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

It seems that animal mental illness can be triggered by many of the same factors that unleash mental illness in humans. That includes the loss of family or companions, loss of freedom, stress, trauma, and abuse.

This is most easily seen in animals that are held in captivity. I would argue that many Americans are captive — owned by their phones, their jobs, fear of missing out, and not enough stuff, or the right stuff. Maybe my spartanism is a way to say “you don’t own me,” and yet the compulsion does. Yet, maybe I’m trying to strip away to truth and bone.

I’m not usually referential but I need to explain my Virginia Woolf quote. You see, after reading Rebecca Solnit’s essay that included this quote — it was like a sucker punch, an arrow through the heart. I’ve so wanted to be myself for so long, this quote floored me. I can solve. I can be more than how society defines me, I can just be myself, angel or not. It’s so simple, yet as Virginia Woolf says, the obstacles against us are still immensely powerful.

 

 

The colony

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ~Ray Bradbury, “Dandelion Wine”

Several weeks ago, on the ever-persnickety website Nextdoor, someone freaked out because they had some bees in their backyard.

It’s still beyond me that every question today has to be crowd-sourced, that we don’t trust ourselves enough to do the research on our own. However, the thread turned out to be useful, because shortly after it was posted, a colony of honey bees  moved inside my Catalpa tree, finding a crack in a hollow.

My gardener (David) told me they were there, and that he would be careful with the blower around them because he “fuckin’ doesn’t want to get stung.” As he shared a few other stories of “almost got fuckin’ stung,” a ground squirrel popped his head out of my lawn and David focused his homicidal tendencies toward it, reminiscing about the creative ways he’s killed them. I reminded him that I pay him extra each month to not kill the ground squirrels.

Anyway, back to the bees.

Ever since my friend Tina started beekeeping several years ago I’ve stopped being afraid of honey bees. The few times I sat in her backyard filled with fruit trees, chickens, and bee boxes, I loved the serene way they floated in and out, making their honeycomb. The bees in my tree are no different. In fact, I got very close to the opening and watched them  go in and out for several minutes.

Honey bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers as food for the entire colony, and as they do, they pollinate plants. Nectar stored within their stomachs is passed from one worker to the next until the water within it diminishes. At this point, the nectar becomes honey, which workers store in the cells of the honeycomb.

The one thing that surprised me, though, is that bees don’t live very long, just a few months. And bees that are dying are taken out of the hive by other workers and dropped several feet away.  I’ve watched them clammer back over the dead lawn, only to die on their return, or be eaten by a wasp. One afternoon I watched a wasp eat the body off a honey bee, leaving the head. I have to say I was a bit mortified.

 

I am breaking your heart

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Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

~ Excerpt from “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda

I sit with blood, and I am tender. I really see the moon tonight; half out, half dark. I keep the glass door closed, though I want it open. I am cold, and I ache.

I know this will be another night she kicks me, my long-legged dog who sheds too much and insists on sharing my bed. Her dreams and her heat will make me throw off my socks and sweatshirt, or fall out and move to the cold pillow on the other side.

But I’ve gotten used to her, this shared intimacy with no strings and no words. I’ve gotten used to her long body, and she is comforting.

And when she is gone, she will be gone. I don’t usually grieve too long.

My friend says that people come and go, that who is in your life always changes. But when they go, I sit in heartbreak.

I watched my old friend cross a city street the other day, and I stared at him begging him to see me. But he’s all up in his own head, so I hung my own and kept walking.

The single butterfly, the baby dragonfly. So tender when they appear their wings are like silent breaths, tears. They visit, then disappear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sighting

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Photo by Kitty Terwolbeck: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kittysfotos/

Much of human behavior can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen. ~Suzy Kassem

When my Saluki, Grey, fixates on a creature outside, his growl is terrifying. To keep him from ruining the front window with his nails, I sometimes have to pull him back to draw the shades. When you touch him in this state, you can feel the rumble in his fur. It’s primal, and sometimes I think he’s going to whip around and bite me.

It’s been a quiet spring, but I’ve been seeing more starlings than usual. Though I have to check again, I think they are trying to make their nests in the neighbor’s Eucalyptus, where the wrens were last season.

There used to be a season for everything. You could count on when the finches show up at your feeder, and October was always skunk month. You couldn’t walk outside late at night or at sunrise without getting a good whiff. I learned to check for the scent the hard way, when my Greyhounds were skunked not once, but twice. It’s a different smell than the roadkill smell — it permeates your sinus and there’s no escape, for weeks.

I was feeling uninspired, staring out at the sycamore, and thinking how still everything felt. I could just make out the planes over the airport, turning into moving stars as it got darker. And this is still a game I play at night with the window open — plane or star?

And there it was. A skunk. In April. Yeah yeah, I know they live year round somewhere.

It was beautiful. I saw him leave my neighbor’s yard, disappear behind a car, then walk across the street toward us. It might have heard that I was leaving out peanuts, was my guess.

Grey rumbled. I had to close the drapes, but then I snuck out the back door to see if I could still see the skunk. I got on my tip toes and peered over the fence, but he was gone, not even a whiff.

 

 

Loneliness

Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better. ~Henry Rollins

This morning a sparrow came to visit me; he stood on the back fence and waited for me to move so he could feed on any leftover nyjer seed or small flies in my backyard. The sparrow species in the area are numerous, and you have to know what season their plumage is in to make an identification, and even then sometimes you’re wrong.

Silent days are always met with interjections: The screaming kid two houses down, the sound of a pinball machine in the front room, and the sound of my own brain, always looping.

The day is bright and warm, high 60s with a chance of boredom. It’s days like this that the animal kingdom enjoys the sun on their backs and Americans drink. Americans drink every day, for whatever reason. But we’re so afraid of being bored because that means we have to get creative, and the truth is that’s how creativity is born. Because inside we’re all still children and we’re bored with each other, so we make up things that will give us that dopamine hit, like sex, alcohol, and drugs. We’ve lost a sense of community and connection, like when you meet that person who really “gets you” and you get that hit in the best way.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so opposed to apps that would help me organize, help me meditate, help me be calm, tell me where to eat, how to get there, and reconnect with my friends. And I figured it out — I’m not calm because I’m not meditating or listening to rainforest noises, I’m agitated because there is an unrest and a loneliness in the world that can only be solved by connecting. Forget humans, I believe they are irretrievably broken. I mean, we spend our entire lives trying to fix ourselves, and what if there’s nothing to fix?

When I looked into the sparrow’s eyes I see something whole but otherworldly, a messenger. A silent reminder to connect.

I reach out to my friends or have the occasional interaction with a coworker or someone at a local store. I know I’m going to be one of those old ladies that bores the shopkeepers because she’s lonely, but that’s if there are any shops left. As Greg Brown once wrote “as the world becomes one big bland place” as soon enough there won’t be any plazas, just a world staring into a screen, begging to be understood. I think we’re already there, at lightning speed.

It’s physiology folks…we can’t undo hundreds if not thousands of years of relying on each other for our basic needs, but we’ve become these weird semi-bots, obese and needy and grasping for something outside of ourselves, but not grasping for one another. We can’t formulate replies in real time as it’s too risky, and interactions are forced and unsatisfying.

Wind chimes. That’s it. They make a melancholy sound. The earth has become so still some days I never hear them.

Order

“It is only by working the rituals, that any significant degree of understanding can develop. If you wait until you are positive you understand all aspects of the ceremony before beginning to work, you will never begin to work.” ~ Lon Milo DuQuette

Last night in a burst, I reinstalled drapes that were taken down while painting my bedroom. I had, unsuccessfully, tried to contact a task service to help me, and after a few choice words on their feedback survey, I did it myself. Sort of.

After inserting pins into every fold of one of the drapes, I stood on the step-ladder and began to put them back into each of tract holes, and was triumphant until I got to the last tract and realized I still had several pins left. The other and I decided that the pins had probably been doubled up in the holes, so the right-side was installed in a bunched up mess, and we moved on to the second drape.

The second drape, turns out, was shorter in width than the first, and it belonged where we had put the first.

So…I’m sitting on my bed, looking up at the lopsided installation, I got to thinking about order. I started to think of it as an art installation. I thought, hmmm, maybe I can hang something from those extra holes, like miniature fake birds from strings. That would create some semblance of symmetry, order, and it would look pretty if not a little crazy. If my sister was still around, she would look at me sideways and judge me in silence.

Being good and orderly makes you believe, incorrectly, that you have control in life. You think that you will somehow be rewarded and that you will be protected from harm. This is from being abused or being made to feel inadequate in your formative years. And all the therapists in the world won’t fix you.

 

 

Stars

“Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born: – you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars.” ~E.E. Cummings

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The moon hangs in the night sky and a star right below it. After some relief from the heat, it’s back again, but not really with a vengeance, just with spite.

The bachelor buttons seedlings that Sweet Farm gave to me weren’t the sought after blue flowers at all, just some sad gangly plant with white blossoms that look like stars. I’m keeping them alive with the dog water just to see what they will do.

Every morning, just as the sun comes up, I put out fresh water and raw almonds for Silent Bob or Jay, who are the Scrub Jays that have come to rely on me for their special stash. I caught a glimpse of one of them drinking out of my fountain, something I rarely see. I had to stand silently behind the pinball machine as he took 1, 2, 3 sips… and the Bushtits are back again, flitting around the crepe myrtle.

The moon stands in the sky, really, and the lonely star is tethered to it. Like an eye chart tomorrow it will move, leaving me to wonder if it’s the same star.

I might leave the blinds open to find out what hallucinations visit me again tonight. Last night a watery reflection of a vinyl record played on my ceiling, and cartoons danced on the blinds. Cartoon A fed Cartoon B with a spoon, and I stood in dumbfounded sleep paralysis, terrified and fascinated at the same time, and unable to move.

The hum of the fan is soothing and I close my eyes, not wanting to prepare for another day. I long for lazy days though I’m not wired for that. I’m dancing and it’s never fast enough. Though I think I’m the light that never goes out, one day the wind will blow the other way, and prove me wrong.