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.

Our cages

It is a matter of shame that in the morning the birds should be awake earlier than you. — Abu Bakr

My parrots are an allegory for my life. The entire time I have had them, I’ve given them what I could: Love, devotion, medical care, beautiful homes (cages), and life partners.

However, as the rains begin fall and it’s breeding season for the type of birds I have, I can’t help but think that their anguish of being stuck in a cage and wanting to fly free and breed is similar to how I feel about my life. I feel like there’s a door there and I never open it. Every turn is just another turn in the cage, a life compartmentalized with all the responsibility that I’ve heaped upon myself, but not wanting to let go of my self-imposed ties because of some sort of internal ethic. Listening to the parrots in the baby monitor as the sun rose used to be a welcoming alarm clock, and now it’s just Groundhog Day.

And then I realized that I had all the control and that I should just begin. Someone once said to me that good things can happen to you if you just clear a path. That’s code for don’t retreat into darkness, stay open to the light. Interesting that all the good advice has nature encoded into it.

I’m listening to the Gymnopédies by Satie: the keys fall, it sounds like rain, and then it sounds like dancing, and it’s quieting the parrots.

Georgia’s face is so old: her soft dog eyes and long white snout look like snow and mud.

Shadows of tiny birds appear for a moment in the light of the window shade, and then are gone.

Image: “The Narrow Path” by rabiem22 on Flickr.





The next sense – the emotional impact of climate change

Twilight cover take us away, we’re only here for a day – Younger Brother

We often hear about people with S.A.D, which is Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s another concoction of the medical profession to make us think something is wrong with us, so we will go running to our doctors to get a pill for what ails us.

We are natural beings, floating in space on an organic ship. And, when we have cataclysmic changes like we’re having now, we’re bound to feel them in every layer of our being. It’s not just about long rainy seasons and grey days anymore; we are digging ourselves out of mountains of snow and using the dog’s water to keep the lavender alive.

I feel like I’ve been on a verge of a “thing” lately waiting for the rain to come in California. I’ve been poised on some theoretical cliff, waiting for the grass to grow again, the birds to be alright, and the flowers to shine. It’s a melancholy that bears no relief. I am outside, wavering between pockets of cool and then the unnatural feeling that the earth is being microwaved.

In the article “The Hidden Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change,” Marlene Cimons writes about a recent Lancet report:

The report, which was published Tuesday by the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, said that victims of natural disasters often suffer elevated levels of anxiety, depression and PTSD, as well as “a distressing sense of loss, known as solastalgia, that people experience when their land is damaged and they lose amenity and opportunity.’’ Moreover, “these effects will fall disproportionately on those who are already vulnerable, especially for indigenous peoples and those living in low resource settings,’’ the authors wrote. These effects not only include the emotional reaction to physical illness and destruction of property, but involuntary “displacement” that forces people to move elsewhere in order to survive.

The Lancet report said that experts already have identified such reactions in people who have experienced floods, and even among those suffering from slow-developing events, such as prolonged droughts. The report noted that emotional impacts include chronic distress and even increased incidence of suicide. “Even in high-income regions where the humanitarian crisis might be less, the impact on the local economy, damaged homes and economic losses may persist for years after,’’ the Lancet report said.

But even if the rain comes we’re spiraling toward something so different now, none of us can predict the future. Migrations are thrown off, sea creatures are hurling themselves onto beaches, and only those who think, but aren’t really in tune, are exclaiming “what a gorgeous day.”


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.



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.