It’s just another day

It’s just another day
Where people cling to light
To drive away the fear

That comes with every night
– Oingo Boingo

Today I retrieved a dead American Goldfinch from the ground. I had seen it sickly roosting on a metal hanger in my gazebo, and I guess it had died on my lawn. My dog Georgia tried to eat it, but I alerted her away from it and put it in the trash. I thought to bury or have it stuffed, but I am too tired for such things as of late.

I have some time to kill before my next job, and my thoughts creep in and out. I waver between bored, satisfied, lonely. I’ve taken to wearing ear plugs to drown out the conures, as they are hormonal from the rain. The days are cold and Georgia’s arthritis is worse. The clouds are not as pretty, nor are the sunrises. I spend my mornings looking out my back window, through the little bits of grass that have stuck to it, trying to make out the little birds that flit among the bushes. As the Eastern Grey Squirrel gorges itself on the millet bell, the White-crowned sparrows wait beneath for the extra bits to trickle down to the felled stump. I can’t see it all very well, as the seal on the window has broken and is foggy, so I just let my eyes rest on what they can see. I don’t look on them with a birder’s eye.

Get out of the way

That which you manifest is before you.
– Garth Stein, “The Art of Racing in the Rain”

My mother used to talk a lot about things that she wants to do, but has never done. If I had a dollar for every time she said “I’m gonna…” well, let’s just say I’d live in a castle. A pretty one in the Scottish highlands. She doesn’t say it so much anymore. In some ways she’s given up.

2011 was a breakthrough year for me in terms of learning a valuable lesson. I learned that when I give people advice about what I think they should be doing with their lives, I should turn the lens on myself instead. That’s really how it is, we criticize when we are stuck or unhappy. It can be subtle, or it comes out in a sea of tears.

I had several of my animals get sick and die this year, and it was very emotionally draining on me. I lost my dear cockatiel, Beetlejuice, to old age and liver disease. Then I lost five budgies to what my vet and I think was either food poisoning or a bad case of genetics (budgerigars are now prone to shorter lives because of avian breeders breeding them for looks instead of health). Then my dog was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor that he had to have removed for a hefty sum; it’s hard to see a gorgeous Greyhound all wacked out on pain meds and then he won’t look you in the eye for days. The level of tumor was so small, I half-wondered if it could have been dealt with in another, less invasive way. They always say that they don’t know what causes these tumors, but strangely I have an idea of what causes all tumors.

These are the tumors that lie beneath the surface that you cannot see. They sit on the top of your stomach, and they keep you from standing up. These tumors make everyone sick. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: “I’m going to hold on to something someone ‘did to me’ many years ago.”  Or, the famous “I’m going to make myself busy with everything else that doesn’t matter, because I’m afraid of getting down to my real work.” When Tori Amos sung that there are so many dreams on the shelf, she was singing to us all.

I now believe that your attitude and your inability to move forward makes you stagnate in a sea of dead birds. And their disease pollutes the lake and becomes your drinking water. Because you’re comfortable remaining sick. Because you think that if you get happy or get well, something will blindside you. But I have news for you…something always will. But you should try to get happy and well anyway, because you can’t race in the rain if you aren’t present, you’ll crash. I kind of thought that my state of mind was causing all of this stress and unhappy circumstances to come to me, and maybe in some ways it did. Whether you do the needful with a heavy heart or a hopeful one can affect the choices you make, and affect the outcomes.

I struggled to keep going with my nature blog because I was so afraid of not saying the perfect thing every time. I was so constrained and my mind was tormented. I was limiting myself. I can’t say I have it all figured out, though I wish every time I had an epiphany that I did. Instead, I’m just happy that I wrote this, and now I’m going outside to look at the stars and kick the leaves around.





When my mornin’ comes around, no one else will be there
so I won’t have to worry about what I’m supposed to say
and I alone will know that I’ve climbed the great big mountain
and that’s all that’ll matter when my mornin’ comes around

~ Iris Dement

My mother’s brother, my uncle Geoffrey, died last October. The cancer in his body from years of smoking metastasized quickly, and just as soon as he was admitted to a terminal care facility, he was gone.

I did not visit him before he died, as he would have not recognized me nor would he have cared that I was there. My sister visited him religiously, but my mother could not face the inevitability, so she kept her distance. However, once he was gone the sheer tsunami of mortality washed over her, leaving her to wander through the landscape of life’s uncertainties.

During his life my uncle was a fairly well-known local artist in San Jose. He created etchings, lithographs, and taught at the local university. His art is in several public permanent collections including the San Jose Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, Achenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts San Francisco, Lannan Foundation New York, and Crown Press Berkeley.

Just a week ago my sister invited me to his house to choose some of his prints for my own. He had this great studio in the back of his house in Willow Glen — a messy converted garage filled with his creative life. As I stood at the table flipping through his prints I felt like I was standing inside of him, that the walls of the studio was his body’s frame, his art his presence, and the thin layer of dust on the floor his heart. I don’t know any other way to describe it.

One liked one piece in particular very much. It was a print called “Tapas” and he had made ten versions of this print. I think I chose 2/10 and 6/10.

This time I spent looking at this piece got me thinking about how little we know about the mind. I felt like what he put down on paper was his interpretation of his mind’s landscape. I sensed that his prints were a rendering of how life’s wind, rain, sun, death, fruits, and flowers leave their marks on our brain, and this output was my uncle trying to make sense of it all.