The gull and the salad

A gull landed softly on the concrete as I arrived.
It stared at me intently, then flew a bit away.
I wondered what it wanted
so far from the bay.

Under my car was a salad
Packed tightly with dressing inside
I flipped it over
And I was no longer mystified

I’m hungry, gull said, and I know what you can do
Use your hands on the plastic
Then bid me adieu

I pried open the prize, and set the packets aside,
then set it gently on its makeshift table.
I locked my car, and headed to BART,
hoping to look up as soon as I was able.

I was grateful, you see, to be of service,
to the gull far from home, looking for breakfast.
As I got to the train, I looked up its way,
but could not see the gull
and its salad buffet.

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t see the sun from here

is an anxiety

over she wished she could dance with them,
the inside, without leaving the little room.
The mind is cruel, she thinks, and love,
a hard outcome in a forest too sinister to burn,
cast itself, and sing. The audience claps.

Her life, she concludes, is a waiting room.
“Push”, she says, “I need someone to push.”
She could say someone told her so
but friendship is irresponsible,
too many things to look forward to.

It is Friday, the time she decides best.
When boredom turns to anxiety and anxiety to smiles,
this is the reason for art.
“Disgust gives birth to freedom,” she mumbles,
“and comfort is treacherous.”
After all, she hums what she feels
and she can fool the rest.

So now she is glad.
she likes the thoughts the sun smell brings
when she wasn’t a victim.
She knows what trust isn’t.
The stone of a single stroke,
crying builds and destroys everything.

She sleeps this Friday, this justified sleep.
Tomorrow she will try again to be model,
but she can’t see the sun from here.

Adaptation

I don’t say she’ll have to work around interruptions and invisibility and micro-aggressions and a scarcity of role models and a lifetime of her own conditioning. My job on this panel is to make this place sound good, so I leave some stuff out. Particularly the fact that I’m drinking at least one bottle of wine a night to dissolve the day off of me. – Kristi Coulter, “Enjoli”

This post started out as a bunch of pondering, pontification, and platitudes. There’s nothing worse then someone giving you a life lesson who has had a terrible go navigating her own.

I’ll just cut to the chase; the other day I had a sit-down with someone who speaks in a way so tedious that you feel like you’re enduring a history lesson from the civil war. You have no idea why you’re talking about the civil war or why anyone would think that you cared. As I watched this person float in and out of the realization that they were talking to a person with their own thoughts and perspectives, I too had my own thoughts about how to navigate the conversation, mostly to end it and dig a hole somewhere for me to stick my head in. Just when I think I’ve figured out how people work or I have some key to mapping the course that’s laid before me, the route changes.

A surprising thought came to me after, that birds have been adapting to the changing landscape for 80 million years, and it gave me some comfort, that I wasn’t alone. I even felt some compassion for the “professor,” albeit briefly. I’m no Mister Rogers.

The narrator from the movie “Winged Migration (2003)” says “The story of bird migration is the story of promise – a promise to return.” In one of the more poignant scenes a flock of birds are taking their same 9,000 mile journey, only to land on a large deck of a ship, the usual spot where they would find sustenance, water, or escape the elements for a while. The look on the birds’ faces is heartbreaking; they are so confused and tired as they wander around the ship. I could only watch the movie once.

I hope that in my navigating this earth I return someplace where I am safe, where I know the road home, even if it’s just within myself. I am satisfied that this is my lot, the daily adventure of living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleeting

“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.” — Leo Buscaglia

Several years ago my sister was murdered by her boyfriend and dumped down a cliff in Kaloloch, Washington State. You can read a little about it here. What’s interesting is that I have no idea who Robert Scott was, but I can tell you this — my sister Robin was never in love with anyone, especially the man who killed her.

Why I keep returning to this memory is beyond me, except that a flock of American Robins have been sitting outside in a sycamore for the past few days. I think they are taking advantage of the worms that have resurfaced from the rains. They are such beautiful birds and every time I see one I say “hello, Robin” as a nod to my sister.

Robin taught me that relationships with the opposite sex are just one of the stories we are given to live by, but the people in those stories aren’t always happy, or make it out alive. When I lived with her I only remembered how sour she was; her big thighs thundering through the house, her head always hung in sorrow on her broad shoulders, or the way she flipped her red hair with her left hand – that nervous tick.

So, I tried to remember some good things about her.

I remembered that she taught me to ride a horse, and when driving a car, how to slow down instead of braking on a curve.

But I was also reminded that life is fleeting, and that you should not wish your days away, and embrace those that lift you up.

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Fire escape

Fire that’s closest kept burns most of all.

William Shakespeare

Stuck inside. The air is a blanket of nothing but smoke and fog.

California is burning at both ends and I haven’t opened the windows in my house in almost a week. The one day I did go into the office, I took Lyft both ways. The first driver kept staring at me in his rearview mirror. I stared out at the haze, but I could still see the rim of his glasses out of the corner of my eye, and it made me uneasy. I finally figured out he just wanted to chat, but his English sentence construction was so bad, and his car so filthy, that I couldn’t wait to get to work. There’s a first. On the Lyft home, I could tell the driver smoked as his car smelled like an ashtray. My head throbbed.

On the days I’ve been working from home, I leave nuts out for the crows, and a small amount of water in a dish as I know they are all parched. Both the crows and the eastern grey squirrels are getting more bold; they don’t immediately bolt when I get close, as they know I am the purveyor of all the nutty goodness. It’s such a thrill to be that close to a squirrel, only its head peaking over the side of the fence. We have a staring contest that lasts a few seconds, and then it goes back to playing its game of peek-a-boo. It’s a welcome delight that is fleeting.

My hands are so dry. My trees are limp and starting to drop their leaves, but there’s no beauty in it. No moisture to mark the coming of winter. So we wait, and maybe go a little mad. When can we breathe again?

Such strange dreams at night, too, born of anxiety. Last night I dreamt I dipped my feet in a stream, and as I did three fish appeared, and I was happy. Then, one of the fish bit my foot, and as it clung I lifted my foot out of the water. Someone snatches the fish away, its rainbow body writhing, mouth agape. I knew, out of water, the fish would die.

Darkness

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will ensure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring”

Sometimes I sit in my front room and let the darkness envelop me. I don’t watch the sun go down; I let the dark slowly wrap me like a grey blanket. It’s always the same view — the dried out sycamore, the streetlamp that lights it up at night, and the wires that obstruct the view of the airport and the bay.

If I walk my dogs instead, I walk into the dark. Less light makes my neighbors’ colorful doors more vibrant, and dried lawns become desert patches. Before all the stars come out, the sky is a cornflower blue, peppered with stratus clouds.

There are fewer bird calls now, just the sound of the ravens and crows returning to nest in the eucalyptus. If I’m lying on my ancient couch, I tune in to whatever calls I can identify, and let them lull me into a restless sleep filled with strange dreams.

One night I dreamt that I opened my kitchen door to see a lone pigeon staring up at me, with smooth gray feathers and an inquisitive golden eye. I couldn’t bear to close the door, so I woke up instead.

 

 

 

 

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.