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I completed last month without using the word "I". Funny, it's a letter, not a word. It was a small conceit, but I thought it was worth a try. A friend asked me if I thought a blog made a person more self absorbed. Well, probably. Just using she instead of I didn't make much difference. At least, I don't think it did. I plan to read back the entries and see if there is any kind of difference in content, profound or mundane. Meanwhile, I'm- Yikes, what just happened, my font changed. This is so much harder to read.
She begins a new month and like a clean sheet of paper, it is white and bleak. She is an explorer on the south pole, miles of white nothing. She looks for a dot or perhaps italics, or is it possible a word will emerge within the phantasmal swirl of ice?. The blank horizon stretches endlessly. Yet, she must begin. Her mind is as blank as the paper. No thoughts, no ideas ruffle the endlessly smooth surface. Yet, she must begin. It's what "writers block" is, she supposes. But to her, it is not a something, it is a nothing.
April, a month of change. Taxes, car insurance due, early tomatoes need to be planted and a new crop of chickens to be raised.
The daffodils have already finished there great burst of color but the daylilys and irises wait, their secret buds slowly swelling, gaining color and strength. It's all about sex in the springtime. Everyone's got to get their timing just right. If the bulbs blossom before the insects warm and fly then who will carry their pollen to their eager neighbors? How frustrating it must be for the flowers. To always wait, depending on others.
It's the waiting. She believes she spends more time waiting then other people. She is not sure how this personality trait developed, it seems like it has been with her a long time. Not compulsive exactly, more vigilant. A need "to be ready when it happens" sort of thing. She would like to change the basis of this habit; to give up trying to control and uncontrollable universe. She wonders what the fear drives this. It seems a little too obvious that she chose teacher and paramedic as her primary jobs, but then, nothing is obvious until you see it.
Someone mentioned that Sunday was Easter. It came as a complete surprise and makes me realize how secular my life has become. Raised Catholic, I remember Easter mass as being my favorite. Light virtually erupted from the alter. The priest and trappings were radiant in gold and white, while hundreds of lilies heralded the rising of Christ.. Best of all, from Good Friday to Easter the alter had been covered and now the cover lifted, the hidden was revealed, and life was returned to us. I am unable to return to this innocent awe, but the beauty stays with me.
She finds "New Age Thinkers" distressing. It seems more thinking of the middle ages, and we know where that led. They believe that the universe is benign and personal "just ask the universe". Where would that idea come from? Even Darwin had some difficulty in believing in a benevolent God and the Ickneuman wasp. He concluded that if God were omnipotent the he was evil and if god was good then he was not omnipotent. Her thinking is frequently dismissed because she is considered "a scientist". As if it were somehow specifically science rather than the more universal critical thinking.
She laughed out loud at the scarlet nipple tassels. So delicious so unexpected.
And who lived this secret life? An elderly woman, a neat woman, active in civic responsibility. Who was she, with these secret desires? Perhaps she liked the hard feel of the cones or the swinging tassel. Perhaps she retained the ability to swing one sagging breast and then the other in counter-rhythm. Or was it the look, the scarlet against light or dark skin? Had a friend left them? Had she purchased them? Perhaps they had been kept secreted until that very last day.
Easter and Passover. They are the thank God we made it through, holidays. Thank God I didn't die this winter. And I want to thank those that made this possible. My God. The worst happened to someone else, and not me. We have escaped again. So in spring we heave a sigh of relief that we have passed through the winter and, even for our Gods, it wasn't that bad. Christ is resurrected and and the Jews escape. Death itself is vanquished, and what a promise that is. A promise the old pagan Gods never made and that changes everything.
The sign on the van said "aroma therapy for dogs". This is in California, of course. For a moment imagine how dogs would see aroma therapy? Indeed, for a moment, let's think like a dog. You relax on a fine cushion and accompanied with soft music and the smell of poodle butt wafts delicately across your velvety nostrils. Or for the terriers, day old carrion invites a roll. Perhaps its just plain shit. But what cadence, what subtle tones and undertones and ah, the finish. I mean, if you're a dog these are the kinds of smells you're interested in.
Four days a week she walked through the deserted amusement park. Gates opened at 10 AM, when groups of desultory patrons began to wander across the blacktop looking to win prizes, to have fun. . But at eight in the morning,there was still a ocean fog winding its way through the Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl and mechanical horse races and into the house of mirrors. A momentary quiet in a place that covered its desperation with noise and activity, where the smell of cotton candy and popcorn promised sweet memories as giant dusty toys looked on like silent gods.
It rained in sheets last night. Several times she awoke to see nothing but water. Then the hail came, pinging against the glass. Over the wind and the water she could hear the man in the trailer doing some kind of metal work. She could just see the lights above the tarps plywood reinforced tent structure he had constructed . He often worked all night, would be up for days working with a frantic obsession worthy of Vulcan. Then he would become confused and disappear for several more days. She wondered what he thought about in the dark, in the rain.
How much do we feel the presence of others? The man in the trailer disquiets her. She moved to the country and liked the darkness, the quiet. The person who originally rented them the property had warned the city girl of both. "Good", she said, "that sounds good". The spot the trailer occupies is about 100 yards from the house. She doesn't know why his nocturnal habits seems so important. She is not really directly affected. Yet, she senses discord. Is this a creation of her mind or is this a kind of primitive sixth sense? She doesn't sleep well.
Animals take chances in the spring. They beef up, put on a little weight, look good, all in anticipation of the coming romance and parenthood. This is not good news for our chickens. Foxes appear in broad daylight intent, loping lightly along the path. Two of our chickens provided meals for foxes, or perhaps kits. Yesterday, the reincarnation opportunity took the form of red-tailed or" chicken hawk" (guess why). She was sitting on a post, hopeful, but a little nervous. The chickens complained all day in their whiniest of voices and parked themselves in front of the back door.
I thought I had lost the entry for the 13 so I repeated it as best I could. Now it's an approximate double entry. Oh well, today's still happening today. Looked at more houses, more compromises neighborhoods getting sketchier. I'm sick of it and have broken out in hives. The doctor was young, disinterested and pedantic. He seemed disappointed. "No one generally knows what causes hives and the treatment is pretty much the same anyway-steroids and antihistamines" he asserted. I was admonished to stop scratching and wear mittens. He gave me a severe look and said he was serious.
April 15, most people think of taxes, but this also marks the day when it is OK to plant tomatoes. Well, maybe just a little early, but for the reckless, today's the day. This year she hopes she will be settled in time to plant Black Krims and cherries. They are nothing like store tomatoes,even expensive heirlooms. She dreams about them during winter, their rich earthen smell, the black lush flesh of the Krims. She bobs her head down into them for the juice, they are warm, and deeply sensual,nothing like those cold round soldiers in the store.
In the spring, animals take chances. They want to beef up, put on a few extra pounds in anticipation of mating, raising offspring. That's bad news for our chickens. The foxes visit in broad daylight. Two of our chickens have begun a new life as foxes or kits. Yesterday, the opportunity for reincarnation was a red-tailed hawk, also known as a chicken hawk, guess why. She sat on the post just by the house looking hopeful, but nervous too. The chickens were complaining all day in their whiniest chicken voices, staying close by the back door, watching the sky.
Time seems to slink along. It slides through minutes, one by one. She likes the Dylan Thomas line "time held me green and dying though I sang in my chains like the sea". What else can we do? Maybe her grandson is right and we begin to become conscious of our ultimate death early on. If you are old enough you might remember Carlos Castaneda who talked about death as an adviser, one who presumably could teach you to sing in your chains like the sea. Or at least live every living moment. But today, for her, time slinks along.
She is drinking Jack Daniel's and eating hot dogs at three in the morning. It is like she is inhabited by some trailer trash spirit that resides in her limbic system and is liberated on some of those sleepless nights. She dips the hotdog in a greasy pool of mustard and ketchup at the bottom of the bowl. She wonders if mayonnaise would make a more interesting tri-colored swirl. She is fascinated by the rubbery texture of the hot dog as it bounces on the fork. Eventually she grows bored and finishes her hot dogs and goes to bed.
Dinner with friends. John has a friend that died yesterday. Cancer. He says it's not the birth or death on the tombstone that you want to remember but the space in between. So we talk. Don't you want to be remembered? he says. Hum, not so much, but I do want to influence. We ask each other what we want to leave behind. What ripples will our life produce. We agree we do not want to leave a legacy of suffering. We want to leave kindness. But remembered? Not so important. We talk about our grandparents. Only scattered memories emerge.
Is there an exact moment when color vision shifts to black and white? She has tried to catch this moment before, waiting and watching at dusk. It is like trying to catch sleep, the thief of time. The change happens in a moment of inattention. Which colors go first? The red spectrum or violet? Her vision becomes less focused, pupils dilate, details disappear. Tonight she will try again to find that space between two worlds. Tonight perhaps she will find the moment where the colors of day disappear and perception shifts to accommodate the fading light and welcome the night.
" I was in many shapes before I was released" Taliesin
She came from a long tradition of shape shifters. Her mother and grandmother preferred birds. She thought they were irritable things, but still, it was the crow sisters that carried her through the night. She would wait for the tapping on the window, just before sleep. They were fickle and their presence random. But tonight she heard it. When she opened the window they were quarreling, as usual. She hoped they would let her ride on their soft black wings. She remembered how the pinfeathers tickled her toes.
It's earth day today, but I can't say I am getting too excited. One day out of 365 doesn't really ignite much consciousness. But all I have to do is step out of the door any day and say whoa, what future will I be part of, or my children, or my grandchildren, or those children and grandchildren of others. I do believe that we are modifying the climate with carbon dioxide emissions, deforestation, etc. My guess is that it won't be good for most of the species on the planet. Funny, I never really read remarks like this...yet.
The man in the trailer has had a heart attack and had open heart surgery today. Her feelings about it were definitely not generous. He had lived on the ranch for a year without paying rent and creating what looked like a homeless shelter. She certainly didn't wish the surgery on him, but she also wondered if this meant people would feel sorry for him and let him stay. The farm was looking pretty crappy. Nothing mowed, no heavy work done for a while. Now nothing would change for sure. She found it depressing and her feelings contradictory and shabby.
She is thinking of shape shifters. Everyone shape shifts.There are no consistent lifetime roles. The idea of a shape changer is familiar to all of us. She changes her shapes depending on the situation, seldom crossing over from human to animal. She changes from mother to lover, worker to wife, sister to girlfriend. She changes her shape to fit the role she is assigned. As a dark skinned student in Berkeley, she straddles two worlds, worlds separated by speech, dress and attitude. Worlds separated by money and position. She couldn't give up either without heartbreaking loss. She holds on.
L.A.'s a tough town, and the cops who work robbery/homicide are the hardest and toughest. Corrupt and opportunistic they comb the LA Basin like sharks, following the scent of corruption.
One looked like Robert Mitchem; intimidating, interesting, with a deep cleft in his high testosterone chin. The other looked more like a biker from Escondido. His arms were almost hairless, with shiny waxy muscle. No tattoos, but along his right upper arm was scar tissue that implied youthful exuberance that would translate into either cop or robber. Quiet and unreadable he seemed ominous and sick.
"Go to a hotel in Beverly Hills and just sit at the counter" he said. He implied that she would know what to do next, but really, she didn't. So she just sat, several cokes later a man sat beside her. He looked like Robert Mitchem, cleft chin, protective and understanding. He asked her if she wanted a date. She had not learned all the code words yet. But, she thinks that she remembered that a date was a job. A chance to earn some money that was more than she earned as a file clerk at the insurance company.
She thought she had been successful. She would earn more in the next hour than a week of filing papers in the insurance agency. So she said the magic words. It seemed OK for a few minutes until he identified himself as LAPD. He was understanding and positively paternally sympathetic. He then asked her if she had a pimp. Did she want to get rid of him? He could really help her in that. Because, couldn't she see, those people were scum. They took advantage of young women and never let up. She would be so much better without him.
UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute sits in the middle of Westwood, close to the UCLA campus. In the sixties it was filled with young adults who had experimented too hard or had looked too deeply into the abyss. She had been fairly blase until they took her pencils and belt away. All very civilized, of course, but she knew she was locked up. She recognized that she had gone downhill, sores on her body, skinny, confused. They told her she had trench mouth and made her eat from metal plates, separate from the other other patients. Oddly, this embarrassed her the most.
The doctors saw it as a sign of craziness that she asked how do we know that Europe exists. Yet, she said, "It is on a map, but how do we know?.How do we know for sure? I mean, do we really know anything? This worried the doctors. "You mean, you don't believe that Europe exists?" They tried to get it straight. She later learned that it really had been Hume who had driven her crazy. Once you started to doubt indirect experience, fundamentally doubt, you were lost until you found your way out of the maze.
When she left the hospital she was put in a halfway house. The home was at the west end of Hollywood Blvd.; a huge mansion, with oil portraits of the long line of Hamburgers lining the wall. The twisting staircase led to a hall where doors opened onto individual rooms. She was seated at her window when she looked out to see the lank, coffee skinned hospital orderly walking down the street, strolling really. Seeing him, so familiar, so friendly, she ran out of the door thinking "here is some who knows me, whom I don't have to explain to."
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