Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sack Cloth and Ashes

I strongly believe that when I am sick and my immunity is down, isolation makes for faster healing, and prevents the invasion of another colony of attackers. And so, in the same way that I choose to isolate myself when I have the flu, or a nasty cold, or a sore throat, by default I isolate myself when I have other maladies including sadness. Whether it is a conscious or a subconscious decision, I can’t be sure. But I do know that I do what I do cause I don’t want to go out in public and indiscriminately spread sadness around.

That’s when neighbors and friends, who are eternally busy in the rush and crush of life, and who keep the roads around here hot and well-traveled because they can’t enjoy their own company, begin a campaign to find help for me. And soon they are stopping in daily, wanting to talk, wanting to share happy-pill stories, and wanting to rush me off to the medics for enthusiastic dispensation of samplers of an endless array of mind-altering drugs.

Now, admittedly, it is difficult to get statistics on drug use – with no accurate way of recording street drugs and weak-tracking of prescription drugs. But it has been suggested that one in ten of all the people in North America take mind-altering drugs. That leads me to believe it has become a fashion trend rather then a rapidly perpetuating medical circumstance.

Anti-depressants are dished out like candy to people like me who have a natural reactive need for isolation because of the overwhelming stimulus of too much distressing information. The whole world seems committed to rousting out all anti-social people holed up in private places, to get them back on the busy pathways of what someone, somewhere, has deemed ‘normal’.

But is it them or is it me? Why can’t anyone understand that reclusive behavior can sometimes be better medicine for the sick at heart than mind-altering drugs. Why is it so hard to understand that what I need is time-out from blow-by-blow media descriptions that spare no details of everything going on in every corner of the globe? And that I need time-out from the corrupt and blatant lying tongues of those in seats of power? And time-out from the stupidity of those who commit unnatural acts that wound the innocent, weak, and vulnerable?

The helplessness I feel makes me long only to be left alone to ponder life. And to wonder when my intense desire to be left alone will be recognized as what it is. Not so much a symptom of depression as a healing biological reaction, like the natural formation of a scab to safely protect, bind, and heal an open wound.

And all of this bothersome demonstrated doting and concern just because I sometimes do like my mother, and her mother before her, and her mother before her. I shut off my television, pull the drapes, paste up my ‘do-not-disturb’ sign, dress myself in sackcloth and ashes, and go to my room muttering with complete disgust and discouragement…

“I don’t know what this world is coming to!”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sour Grapes and Rhubarb

Man, what’s with me? Goodness knows, I’m old enough to know better. What made me scoop up all those baskets of fresh strawberries on that trip into town? Particularly since I solemnly promised myself years ago, I wouldn’t do that again.

I know from experience that bringing home peaches, pears, plums, and strawberries when they are in season is nothing more than a ‘make work project’. I know that, but still the groceries are put away and I am now face-to-face with four large baskets of fresh strawberries in the middle of my table with mocking seedy little eyes peering through plastic weave prisons directly at me.

“So, now what are you going to do with us? Particularly since we are the freshest we will be at this very moment. And you can stop kidding yourself. Tomorrow, even tomorrow, slow deterioration will be setting in.”

There’s no point in explaining that I’ve had a lot of company, and yesterday I planted a monster garden including solo-planting of five eternally-long rows of potatoes. There’s no point in explaining that I am utterly pooped and that this rainy day was to be a Rest and Recovery Day. There’s no point in any of it.

So I head to the cellar and gather up jars and lids and begin washing, scalding, and sterilizing. And while that is happening I make a quick trip to the garden, to do nothing more than admire the hard labor of yesterday, but end up distracted by all that young, crisp, tender, sweet (?) rhubarb that also longs to be tended to while in its prime.

So now I have two pails of rhubarb and all those strawberries ‘yipe’ing at me about the immediacy of freshness and flavor. For just a moment I consider the easiest solution is to mix them all together and make jam.

But no, the strawberries want to stand alone. And the rhubarb isn’t too pleased either. So more jars from the basement and two large pots on the stove. One for pure strawberry jam, and one for my standard fuss-free rhubarb jam I usually make companioned with strawberry jello.

Now what struck me midst my exhaustion and dragging feet and frustration at having to deal with all this stuff, was the business of ‘sweet’ rhubarb. Surely words are to convey exactly what we are doing and how we are feeling. So what’s with that ever-more repeated phrase ‘crisp, young, SWEET rhubarb’?

Man, if rhubarb is sweet, then so is barbed-wire scrapes, wasp stings, and sour milk.

But still life goes on. Eventually the jam is jarred, the kitchen reconstructed and the mess cleaned up. And on the counter are six jars of strawberry jam and ten jars of rhubarb and strawberry-jello jam and the small bit of overage in two small saucers. So now the taste test.

I taste the strawberry.
Yum. Field-fresh and sunshine good.

I taste the rhubarb.
How sweet it is.

Now I’m going to get a fluffy blanket and I’m going to the big chair for a very long rainy-day nap.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Immaculate Conception of Words

The years are too quickly slipping by and it is less and less often that I wake up feeling like a ‘humanoid’. And by that, I mean waking up in the pre-dawn with all body parts responding to my will without cramp or pain. It happens rarely, but when it does, I stride resolutely to the kitchen in my nightgown, seat myself at the table, and gaze out the open window.

And if the conditions are right, that is to say:
if there is mist on the meadow,
if the woods are only delicately back-lit by the morning sun,
if the freshness of the night and the dampness of the dew still lingers,
if the morning psalm-song of a bird is still echoing, and
if the occupants of this house, (Hub and the 3 dogs), are still soundly slumbering – something in the vaporous aura of all that I have stated reaches inside of me and transports the spiritual part of me to another place.

And if I were to attempt to tell you about that place without the benefit of the mutterings of a ‘medium’, I would have to say that the natives there are rather quirky mentor-spirits of mind and soul and heart. Quirky, because their fraternity is closed to only one ‘awareness’ at a time, like a critical ward in a hospital that imposes the rule that at any given time, there can be no more than one visitor.

Because we are friends, you might suggest that I should disregard that rule, and take you along, but I can’t. The natives have the place surrounded and fortified by a mushroom cloud that quickly dissolves the place when there is the slightest inkling that I might be bringing a companion. So when Hub awakes, or when there is the slightest stir of other awareness, canine or human, my trips are canceled. So in truth, all I can tell you is ‘Sorry Folks, I can’t take you by the hand and bring you along. I must go alone.’

But nevertheless, despite the insecurity that pains me when I am forced to travel alone, I value these trips and truly feel over-privileged on those rare occasions when I am allowed to go there.

Other times I wonder, ‘Could this destination be the same place that so many people escape to when they relate the feeling of having temporarily left their bodies during a critical moment of severe physical trauma?’ It too is a spiritual place where those who have visited and haply returned say that while there they felt torn by an urgency to leave and a beckoning to stay. In this there is an obvious parallel, cause that’s exactly how I feel.

Still, despite this apprehension about leaving or staying, while there I luxuriate in warm friendship and one other confidence. I know that when I leave, I will leave with heart and soul refreshed.

And in addition to that, I will have a new level of inspiration for my writing. Back home, at the kitchen table, I will gaily sit down near the window at the table and magical words will form and flow onto paper that I have not consciously framed or even contemplated.

Words formed by the first instance of their creation as an immaculate conception.

Unfortunately, I think access to the exclusive symposium we have discussed here comes as an add-on to what I am tempted to call ‘The Elder Advantage’. I say that because I have only been given visitation rights in the last few years.

Seems I had to first cleanly separate myself from a lifetime of superlative desires for fashion, wealth, popularity, and power before I could go there. And of course, with the ‘one visitor at a time’ rule, I can’t tell you for certain if there are any younger members.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What Kind of Philosophical Bend?

If little things bothered me as much as they bother some people, our marriage would have been another divorce statistic years ago. It’s not so easy to ignore someone who brushes their teeth with warm water. But I do.

And it’s not so easy to ignore the fact that every time he gets behind the steering wheel of a vehicle, he drives like an Indy 500 Racer, but I do. And it’s not so easy to ignore the traffic tickets, but I do.

And it’s not so easy to ignore the fact that every time he gets his best clothes on to go to some really important function, he stops the car half way there (even though the car has expressed no complaints), and gets under the hood to massage the motor. But I do. His excuse always being that preventive ‘attention’ keeps everything in good nick. Can’t fault him for that either. After all, don’t our health administrators have the same idea? Hike, walk, run all day long, drink a truckload of water and eat everything raw and you won’t get sick. And that creates some kind of warped populace perception that if we are sick, it’s our own fault.

Anyway, so I’ve put all those annoyances away. Choosing to ignore them, rather than make a fuss. But there is still one that hangs on and annoys the hell out of me. And it has to do with ‘the last bit of anything’.

Last night Hub made a pot of coffee for us way late at night. First of all there was the discussion about whether it was smart to be drinking coffee before bedtime. ‘Cause you know how that goes. You end up working the night shift not because that’s your job but because you can’t get your eyes shut – until around four in the morning. But ‘coffee’ conjures up pleasant thoughts and talking about it creates the need, so I agree. It would be really nice to have a coffee and if I only drink one cup, I know it will have little effect on my sleep.

Hub sets the coffee brewing and with a happy little skip, comes to tell me coffee is almost ready, and because the coffee can was so close to empty, he used it all. He tells me as if it is a conquest, a good conquest, a great conquest. Emptied the can, that’s what he did. Can one not fail to admire him for that?!

And so now here comes the coffee. Tastes mighty fine, I have to admit. But it is killer coffee. The kind of coffee positively guaranteed to keep all night-shift workers alert and on the job. The kind of coffee we only drink, when we need an early start to an overly long day. I’m annoyed, but I say nothing to ruin the happy effect of emptying the can – cleaning up, I guess, in a manner of speaking or thinking or whatever.

Now this same attitude of ridding oneself of the last bit of anything carries on in other ways as well. And some of them are even more annoying than killer-coffee at midnight.

If there is two-thirds of the last onion left in the house, Hub will make a raw onion sandwich with not two or three slices of onion, as is usually the case. Oh no. He will use the whole thing and do a wee happy dance because he has rid the place of it all. If he is snacking on raw celery and cheese, don’t be looking for any for the stew tomorrow, ‘cause he’ll be cleaning it up good and proper.

And if the sugar bowl is depleted, he will add extra to his coffee to clean it up. If the butter dish is depleted he will use double the normal amount to use it all up. If the toothpaste is depleted, he will use a blob as big as a walnut or Jap orange, just to clean it up. If he is building something and there are four nails left, he will pound them in somewhere, somehow.

No matter what it is. When anything reaches the quarter mark, he is obsessed with cleaning it up. He can’t even stop for gas when we are driving until we are shutting off the motor to go down hills and driving up the next on fumes.

And unfortunately, I usually end up emptying the garbage because when is it ever less than half full?

The Depletion Game – it makes him happy. It drives me crazy. Makes me wonder why I stick around.

And so now, there are two reasons why I can’t query this behaviour. One is because Hub finds such pleasure in doing this, (can’t ruin his good time, you know), and the second reason is because it irritates me enough that I might end up over-reacting. So if you understand this philosophical bend, you tell me.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mind Clutter and Control

There’s a theory out there that clutter is bad. And when clutter is cleaned up, here comes a joyful state of deliverance, control of the present, and release from the past.

Sounds great, but for me, it is more my mind than my physical environment that is in confusion and disarray. So maybe, what I need to do is reorganize my mental arena.

I’m thinking this way because right now my writing efforts are stalled and I strongly suspect it is because I have too much clutter and disorder in my mind. Perhaps the time has come for me to sort all that mind debris into organized categories of rank and reason.

So, referring to my De-Cluttering Guide. Step one: ‘Set aside what you will keep.’

That would be my emotions. And so I pluck those out and toss into the Discard Bin all the trivia of my daily realities. It’s not as if I’ll ever use them again. Sure, all that trivial data may help me win an argument, but so what. Winning an argument has little to do with contentment, joy, or spiritual fulfillment.

So I will closet and keep faith, values, loves, and tenders. And I will chuck and burn all my stretched, warped, and torn trivial and incidental recalls. And then, of course, soon after, I expect my head to clear and my thinking to become concise.

Still, I am well aware that discarding stuff can be painful. I am still plagued, twenty years later, by the deep pain and guilt I felt when I watched my old doll and that big old teddy bear curling up and screaming with pain in the burning barrel. That, alone, was enough to make me into a hoarder with a preference to live in clutter, revel in clutter, and marinate my soul in the intoxicating whimsical atmosphere of that clutter.


But although today there is no hungry burning-barrel with tongues of flame, still there is a snag. The snag is that all the emotions I plan to keep become meaningless without the little realities in my life that preceded them. The insignificant sigh, the backward look, the sideways glance, the brushing touch, the awkward pause, or barely perceptible ripple. These are the things that form those themes that dissolve into emotion when I write.

Would it not be foolish for me to discard and burn the small event that caused anger and, in doing so, render worthless the emotion that reached out to calm my agitation? And would it not be foolish to discard and burn those unique situations that wove pleasurable emotions when people were congenial and kind to me?

I have more trivia in my mind than anything else. In my mind are mountains of trivial-matter. It is responsible for most of the clutter. Mountains of it that mimic a dumping ground for things as useless as 4002 plastic cottage cheese containers. But amazingly, this debris, when mixed with ‘dirt’, and routinely rotated, composts into that which I write.

It is surprising to me, and probably to you as well, that the endless clutter of inane trivia is what simplifies my thoughts and signifies my needs. And in the span of any life, it has always been meaningless trivia anointed with human emotions that have forged pathways of conceptual abstractions (and aberrations) that were never before realized.

So I guess, for me, living and writing is simple and beautiful atop an inspirational mountain of meaningless ‘junk’. And if re-organization and de-cluttering is going to happen, I’ll have to start in my basement Craft Room.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

One Easy Cure

The blogger flu we were discussing last post?

I found a cure. Maybe not a complete cure but something that will readily cheer your mind, warm your soul, and cause your heart to soar with delight. I found it in Anne’s list of goodies (recipes). She picked it up here. And I don’t care if you don’t like pancakes. You’re going to love this one.

Made it. It was so simple. Ate it plain with butter and a bit of icing sugar. It was so goo-oo-d.

It made me happy. Made Hub happy too. It made us blind to dreariness. And if we get more snow, more minus temps, more rain, more mud, I will simply make some more and remain obliviously happy.