Jay and Silent Bob

The more often we see the things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less. ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I keep resubscribing to WP as it’s the only sense of self I feel I can hold onto, and even that is fleeting. But it’s important to me. Milan Kundera once said “Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding.” How true this is, but we must keep writing. Even though the world is too loud, we still need to keep talking.

I made a couple of friends a few weeks ago, two California Scrub Jays I’ve named Jay and Silent Bob. I named Jay his name because he is feisty and fearless, though not clueless like the real Jay from “Clerks.” Once Jay figured out that I was the giver of raw almonds, he started getting closer and closer to the window where he would see me every morning. Lately he’s been turning his head sidewise so a) he can see me better and b) he can silently demand I hop to it in the almond department. He’s absolutely stunning — the true blues and greys in his feathering I’m sure make him quite the spring contender for the ladies.

I started to worry that I was creating little almond addicts, so I’ve been trying to mix it up when I throw the nuts outside. I don’t want the mess of a bird feeder, so I’m keeping it real with targeted throws. However, what I’ve learned is that bird feeding is actually helpful at times when birds need the most energy, such as temperature extremes in winter or early spring, when natural seed sources are depleted (source: The Humane Society of the US). Birds need less of our help in summer, except for maybe a bird bath if it’s hot.

Silent Bob keeps his distance. He perches on the telephone lines farther away. He still stares, but waits patiently. If I was to anthropomorphize, I would say he’s speaking directly to my empathy, and I’m a huge sucker.

 

Monday October 24th, 2016

 

No one cares about my old humiliations
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.

— Edward Hirsch

I sat outside today on my porch, waiting for a hot flash to pass, letting the cool wind hit the sweat under my Black Flag sweatshirt. In a span of a few minutes, I saw a drug dealer straddle a driveway in his car, then go sit angrily on the stairs in a breezeway, waiting for his money to show up. I could see him through the broken window of the home he waited at. After waiting a while in frustration, he then got back into his shitty Toyota (he works on his own engine, I can tell), and as he sat down, he pulled out a bottle of liquor. I’m sure he took a swig before he pulled away. I half-expected him to return with the rest of the liquor and a lighter to torch the place, but that’s where my head goes in watching such things.

I started to get cold. The family next door always seems to be doing laundry, dragging their basket to and from the car every day. It was barely raining and a woman had her umbrella out.

My neighbor’s old dog watches the scene with me, peering through the slats of their house like a eery ghost.

I was walking my dog up my hill earlier today and I saw a couple get out of their car. The man held his girlfriend’s hand and they shuffled these tiny steps across the street. I think they live in one of the illegal mother-in-law cottages across the way. I imagined he was just bringing her back from getting an abortion, that he keeps her hidden away, impregnates her, and then makes her get abortions, over and over again, and that’s why they were walking so slow. This is the crazy truth about my brain, that I make this shit up to entertain myself.

The sky was beautiful tonight, all grey with hints of white, and crows and ravens you can only capture a silhouette of with your camera, flying south. I’m not even going to try. At 5 pm I couldn’t tell if the rain was falling or the leaves of the Sycamores were rustling, turns out it was both.

Ladybugs

I think we are bound to, and by, nature. We may want to deny this connection and try to believe we control the external world, but every time there’s a snowstorm or drought, we know our fate is tied to the world around us. – Alice Hoffman

I have stopped caring about the drought, but not in the way that you think. I’m not apathetic. I do still think we should try to save our dying planet, even if it’s just for the history books…if they survive, too.

Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of “Crow Planet” and one of my favorite nature writers, said in the same book that wonder has fallen from favor, and I would agree. Though our planet is sick from drought, extreme climate change, and apathetic consumers, I often step back and wonder at what extreme changes I’m seeing. Rather than wallowing in the stupidity of humans, and wringing my hands at what can be done, I instead choose to wonder.

Don’t get me wrong…I do my part. I’m vegan (though I’ve tripped up a few times), I support farm animal sanctuaries, and I try to educate people when they ask what I care about, or why I don’t eat meat. Enough? Maybe not, but right now it’s all I can give. I had to save myself, because the weight of the world was killing me. I had to change how I thought about things.

Lyanda wrote: “I am no ecological Pollyana. I have borne, and will continue to bear, feelings of wholehearted melancholy over the ecological state of the earth. How could I not? How could anyone not? But I am unwilling to become a hand-wringing nihilist, as some environmental ‘realists’ seem to believe is the more mature posture. Instead, I choose to dwell, as Emily Dickinson famously suggested, in possibility, where we cannot predict what will happen but we make space for it, whatever it is, and realize that our participation has value. This is grown-up optimism, where our bondedness with the rest of creation, a sense of profound interaction, and a belief in our shared ingenuity give meaning to our lives and actions on behalf of the more-than-human world.” (Crow Planet)

So today I sat outside with my parrots in their outside cages, and gave myself a homemade manicure and pedicure. I wondered at the nettles and their blossoms, and I let the ants run across my legs. I also contemplated, for a while, the three ladybugs (family Coccinellidae) that crawled through the nettles. What were they doing? What were they looking for? I wondered for a while.

lady

Annabelle

I had a daughter, called her Annabelle
She’s the apple of my eye
Tried to give her something like I never had
Didn’t want to ever hear her cry

— Annabelle, Gillian Welch

I can’t listen to a song or see things in my life without it conjuring up a memory. A number of songs remind me of old lovers. The song Annabelle reminds me of when I promised a friend of mine that she would be in my wedding, and then, well, I don’t know what happened, I chose someone else, and she got very angry at me. Here name was Anna, and I used to call her Annabelly. She was lovely, except for her smoking habit. American Spirits, if I recall. So every time the song Annabelle comes on, I think of Annabelly’s face in her mother’s home, and the smoke on her breath. She was lovely, except for all the lines in her face from years of abuse. I could never figure out why her teeth stayed so white.

I thought to name a future dog Annabelle, in the hopes that I could replace a mistake with a positive experience. I have a strange brain that way. I also think about the songs I that would accompany the video I would make when my beloved dogs die. They say that what you obsess on you draw to you, but in my mind it’s going to happen anyway, so why not imagine the beautiful movie it could be.

January 4, 2015, 16 days after death (a life in Robins) – about my mother

The other day a flock of American Robins landed in one of my trees behind my house. It was such a sight, like big and alive beautiful ornaments in a Christmas tree. They were restless, hurried, and when I coughed they flew away, save for a few brave souls.

It was a day of remembrance, not of my lost mother, but of the smell of oranges after a cold rain. Not of my sister, but just a symbol of my sister, who was named Robin.

I only have passing thoughts. Of days on the lake in Whiskeytown, jumping off the shoulders of my mother, and lying for hours in the blazing hot sun. After napping you awake within a hazy dream and run toward the water, it embracing your burnt skin like a homecoming. And your mind goes under the dock, not with a boy or a girl but by yourself, like a sea creature.

It’s never the things that are said but the feelings from memories. Pink roses and drunkenness, a wood stove and lost sisters never known. Manure, abuse, and lingering anger. You think you will feel all this grief, and sometimes you do when Johnny Mathis is playing on vinyl, or when she tried to make it right, and it was too late.

All we have

In the woods we lit a fire
And we watched a wary deer walk by
The trees were restless,
moving underbrush
And clouds were banking in the sky

But I got a message from the hummingbird
He gave me a warning in disguise
He told me they’re marching on Monsanto
But the same monolithic structures rise

“Hummingbird” – The Both

I have a few days off before I go back to work again. Today I had breakfast, walked the dogs, fed the birds, stared at a tree, and took a nap. I listened to the space around me and watched lonesome birds go about their business, trying to survive the drought. The Western Scrub Jay has reappeared on the dead lawn, finding a feast of mosquitoes and flies within the dusty holes where the ground squirrels have made their home, and today I saw him bury a nut in the dead log under the Catalpa. The ground squirrel has since moved on to other lawns where there are gardens. I’m assuming any bird seed that accidentally got dumped in our back yard was a temporary snack until a greater meal could be found. I saw a single Eurasian Collared Dove, and a Northern Mockingbird.

Everything feels hotter. Every day I feel closer to the sun, and every day I feel a sadness about the changing climate and landscapes. I watch over the wild life in my backyard, in the local park, like a doting mother who knows she can’t do anything except watch and wait. I feel a sadness as I watch people around me blithely immune to their impact, though I know that is not fair, that I’m sure it lingers in most people’s minds and conversations, even if it is just a passing comment about needing rain. I am slowly moving beyond judgment, knowing only that I can change myself, as it’s all I have. Maybe through my actions I can help show others this is all we have.

The White Moth

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The moth in my garden, I wish it would alight upon me. Instead it gaily moves like a beautiful snowflake, past me to land on the brilliant morning glory, which flourishes without attendance.

The white moth reminds me of singular beauty, the diamonds in nature that catch your eye, and urge you to dwell.

A search to identify my lonely friend turned up a plethora of images. Are you a blue copper or a nymph? I think you might just be a cabbage white. I wonder if you have wandered down with the monarchs during their autumn journey, but on further investigation I see you are the enemy of vegetable gardeners. Perhaps you have come to see there is nothing in my yard, or maybe you have spent time with my dwarf peach. I don’t know, but you are lovely, and thank you for visiting.

 

Dry

The moth don’t care if the flame is real
Cuz flame and moth got a sweetheart deal
-Aimee Mann, “The Moth”

Image

I’m waiting for the sun to go down. It’s windy in San Bruno, and it’s dry.

I’ve been sitting on the edge of writing for this while. And I’ve been sitting on edge, waiting for the weather to turn. Most people have been enjoying the sunny days, out and about, saying “isn’t this great?” To me, the mornings are gray, the days are hot, and the nights blow the dead leaves around, and kick up the dust. Around the country, we have seen startling extremes, from hurricanes in the extreme northeast to the suffering heat, country-wide, mid-July.

No backyard curb appeal for me. My yard is full of nettles, dead lawn, rotting planter boxes and a gazebo that slowly comes apart with every windstorm. The field mouse in the box where the nasturtium strives to thrive has long since abandoned it; it’s given up on me re-hanging a feeder. Sometimes I turn the hose on the plants not because anything is growing but I know a Bewick’s Wren or California Towhee might want the relief, and a sip. However, I feel guilty for every drop I use, and the local water and garbage co. have raised our rates. Who cares about native plants if one day I have no water to drink? That is probably sadly misinformed, but I am not a scientist.

According to the American Meterological Society (AMS), “2012 was the warmest on record, ranking either 8th or 9th, depending upon the dataset used. The United States and Argentina had their warmest year on record.” (you can read the full report here: http://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/state-climate-2012-highlights). Humans have the biggest impact on global warming, and according to the study, the least debated, of course, is greenhouse gases. However, our deforestation and the paving of our greenbelts means we are constantly impacting the Earth’s albedo, how much the Earth reflects sunlight. This is why areas with a lot of ice cover are melting faster.

The dryness and wind in the last six months has brought some interesting wildlife to my yard, though. My neighbor’s apricot tree created hundreds of apricots, feeding the local scrub jay and the eastern grey squirrel. The visitors so close to my bird room made for constant entertainment for my parrots, and very noisy days when the conures sounded the alarm “alas! what squirrel through yonder window plays!”

As the fruit rotted the dregs would be picked up by the skunks at night, and then the ants, bugs, and flies descended on my lawn, and their predator, the Black Phoebe.

I stand at the end of my dead lawn, at the beginning of the end. I’m keeping my eyes open as we go underwater to escape, or to return to our beginnings.

Present

As a Silicon Valley creature I’ve worked and dined with many a human animal in the last 25 years. And I had an epiphany today. I’ve actually had it a few times, but now it’s coming to fruition.

If I could get paid to stare into my yellow and white daisies, my camellia, and the freesia growing yearly through my rosemary I would. If I could get paid to spend my days napping in between foreign movies, I would. And if while I’m watching those movies if I could have a Greyhound in my lap, even better.

I am beyond the hoopla of the corporation. I only engage for survival, and for the one day I can retire to the daffodils and daily tea and poetry. As they say “it’s easy to make money, if that’s all you care about.”Image

 

 

Good Evening

I hope the leaving is joyful, and I hope never to return

~Frida Kahlo

I have spent very little time outside these days. It’s glimpses of seabirds in the morning heading west to the Pacific, and I mourn the loss of Vitamin D. The doctor says that I need to take a supplement, but it doesn’t help much. I need to be outside, really, hiking. Tomorrow it will rain, but I get to be home, inside, looking out, and there is some solace in that.

I have found time to read on BART going into SF for work, and I just finished Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. She shares my love of animal rescue and taxidermy (mutually exclusive), and a more quirky way of looking at the world. I finally finished a book after many years, thank you public transportation. It’s a fun, easy read, check it out.

San Francisco has become my urban nature observation. I say hello to every pigeon I see like a crazy person, and watch people on streets on and on BART with a trained eye. I study their skin, their clothes, their disposition. The unshaven back of a man’s head, or the feathers we all wear…colorful scarves, wisps of hair falling from a beret, presence… and the smell of alcohol wafting up from the homeless man asleep in the back. I am among these wild, and I am the second witness.

Layers

If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready, be ready to get confused

And there’s no map
and a compass
wouldn’t help at all

– Bjork – “Human Behavior”

I have found with human interaction, as in nature, the rawness of life can be difficult to engage with a straight face. I feel like we wear different filters, or layers, to protect ourselves from the inputs or our interpretation of them. For those that feel deeply, what they take in can almost be overwhelming. We are labeled as too sensitive, but I’d like to call it over-connected, really, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

There’s always a break in the rain

Life is the worst
Listen to me, I’m a philosopher
Love, that’s a trap
Responsibility, that’s a trap
Like a father to a son, I tell you this
Life is full of horror, nobody escapes, nobody, save yourself
Whatever pulls from you
Whatever needs from you
Threatens you
Learn at least this
What you are capable of, let nothing stand in your way

– Al Pacino in “Angels in America”

I have a love/hate relationship with the winter and December. But there is a beauty in the bareness that only animals with great noses are lucky to know; like the whiff of both orange trees that grow in the winter in my neighbors’ yards, and the smell of eucalyptus that wafts up on the wings of crows and ravens chasing away a hawk. If you look up waft, “to cause to move or go lightly by or as if by the impulse of wind or waves,” I think it’s very unlike the dictionary to have such a poet’s definition, and I am pleased.

My backyard, in all its commonness, is a place of ever-changing weather and an attack on the senses. The shapes and dreams from my childhood still live in the clouds – the bunnies, big hands, sweet pink cumulus, and the smells; coldness, wetness, darkness, sadness, and the thoughts the sun-smell brings. I’m reminded of the taste of carrots and vinegar, tomatoes and salt, all on the porch of a sunny day.

I spent time with my dying family this season. My sister, the caregiver, and my mother, having less and less to look forward to. The bitterness of the unthoughtful gift from my brother, and the brief visit that consummated in the long nap during the car ride home while my mate navigated his way with the company of 70s on 7.

Unlike letting mother nature move us and do its thing, we as humans are expected to navigate our human landscapes by how we want to live our lives as individuals. I had the sudden realization that, when there is a break in the rain, you have to seize the opportunity for another kind of life, happiness, and interpretation within the clouds around you.