So depressed. Too much to go into. No. My heart isn’t broken. Not in that way.
Stared long and hard at a set of quotes I had prepared for a post. No words. Nothing.
Here. Have some Steve Martin playing with Python . . .
Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 44 degrees.
Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, technology allows us to connect with people all over the world at any given our of any given day. We can share what is going on in a country at war with itself in real time. Consider the Arab Spring. We cam share a sunrise on the other side of the world via real-time posts of photographs on networks like tumblr or Facebook or Twitter.
Yet for all of its benefits, technology also serves to isolate us. I am speaking, of course, from personal experience.
It is so much easier for me to correspond with people in the various circle of my life via text or e-mail or comments sections than it is to get in the car, drive, and visit someone in person. For isolationists such as myself, this is not a boon. By making it so easy to maintain virtual relationships it has also become so easy to abandon real-life relationships.
What I am contending is not anything new or groundbreaking, but it does help to answer some questions that I’ve been pondering, namely, how is it easy for me to stay in the house for weeks at a time? That, and have I become boring?
Technology answers the first, and probably the second.
Perhaps I should have prefaced the former by saying that today is a bad day. I am now officially out of my antidepressant; my health insurance is in limbo awaiting reinstatement after we catch up on premiums; Corey is becoming more sullen with each passing day that he is not working or hearing from prospective employers. Granted, he is still officially employed, but he so wants to move to a position that does not take him away for 90 days at a time, so this time his hiatus is quite different from the last time.
Nevertheless, he worries, as do I, and both of us fretting makes for tension. Between my health insurance, the mortgage, and the utilities, our income is being eaten before it materializes. Neither of us wanted to be back in this position. It is far too stress-inducing. The term “financial cliff” is more than a metaphor for the nation’s current solvency, and that is unfortunate. At least we don’t have to have a super majority vote to rectify our personal cliff, which, I suppose, is somewhat of a comfort.
So yes, today is prickly. I’ve had Patty Griffin’s playlist running for the past couple hours, prompted in part by Izaak Mak’s posting of the song on NCIS last night (see below). I love her voice, but granted, her songs are not exactly happy feet music. Of course, I don’t really like happy feet music, do I?
I had my military dream last night; the difference was that I was not in the military, but I had been chosen to teach a class to a group of soldiers, all female. The strangeness began when we boarded a bus that then became a boat of sorts. It took us down this waterway that was a graveyard for vessels of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. I was wondering how the bus was maneuvering through all of this without hitting anything when I suddenly saw a pile of skulls out the bus window. The skulls were bleached white from the sun.
As the bus continued through the water I saw more piles of skulls, some small and some so massive that they were cascading. I wondered how the military could allow its soldiers to come to their final resting place in wreckage, and it bothered me tremendously.
I realized that I had never seen a real human skull up close, only in film, and the starkness of the piles tore at me, but I could not show weakness in front of these female soldiers. I asked for a cup of strong coffee and tried to shake it off.
I awoke with a massive headache.
So back to my opening statement.
My world has extended far beyond the borders of this house or this yard or this neighborhood. Beyond this city or this region or this country, and that is something I have always sought—to be a child of the universe, per se.
Each day I peruse pictures of nebulae, coastlines, ruins, architecture, pictures taken with satellites and phones. I see things that I wouldn’t have had easy access to even 20 years ago. I find this miraculous really. I mean, I know what’s going on in Namibia, Queensland, and Reykjavik. And if I am honest, I must admit that by expanding my horizons in this way I have also expanded my empathic circle.
By that I mean, I care so much more. Let me back up for a moment. When I was young, a child only, I saw pictures of the war on the news and in newspapers. I saw suffering as it was presented to me through the filter of editors, publishers and producers. My first glimpse of a crystal blue sea was in a book.
Now, I access such information without anyone on the other side deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to put this image or that story out there for consumption. This is both good and bad. It is good as it allows us—all of us who care to—allows us to see what’s happening, but without the filter of an editor or a producer, we very often encounter those things that are extremely disturbing.
Without an authority figure out there to decide what is best for us, we can literally see everything. Is it too much?
I don’t think that this is the kind of discovery that Thoreau had in mind, and part of me yearns for simpler times, but isn’t that always the way that it is?
Regardless of how misguided you think Christopher McCandless was when he went into the wilds of Alaska, there is still something admirable about his vision quest when looked at simply: He wanted to be able to find his own truth without outside influences telling him what he should do or how he should think.
I know that in many, many ways, that is the same thing that I have always wanted. Yet here I sit, allowing so very many outside influences into my life, pouring into my brain images of this or that or the other. I seek this deliberately, and in so doing, I contradict myself.
My friend on Titirangi Storyteller posted a beautiful image of a lighthouse on a craggy island. I was immediately drawn to this image much like the image in the section above, immediately understood what she meant about wanting to live there. But to live there would be, essentially, to live without all of the accoutrement of today’s technology. I am certain there is no wi-fi on that island, no cable, no BBC America, no tumblr, no Internet.
It’s starkness appeals to me, but could I do it? Could I abandon these tethers for that kind of freedom? And if I did something like this, would it actually be freedom?
I have no answers, only more questions.
More later. Peace.
(All images by Tobias Richter, used with permission.)
Music by Patty Griffin, “Not Alone” (from last night’s episode of NCIS)
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
~ Margaret Atwood
I feel very fortunate that I have collected a group of bloggers who happen to be wonderful people: good writers, deep thinkers, analytical commentators, wry wits . . . and lest I forget, genuinely kindhearted individuals who share their thoughts, stories, and insights with anyone who wants to visit. And sometimes, one of them writes something that is so in keeping with exactly how I am feeling about something, that the best course of action is to repost what has already been written.
Such is the case with the following. Enjoy.
My fellow Americans,
You have been offered the rarest of reprieves; please do not throw it away. Two years ago the underpinnings of our economy, rusted through by deregulation and burdened by the weight of unjustified tax cuts and unfunded wars gave way into free fall. In that moment of sober terror Barack Obama led the Democratic Party to a historic victory; the hard right wing of the American political spectrum was electrified in a way they had not been for at least a generation and immediately attacked everything about Obama from his policies to his ancestry. His enemies have accused him of being ‘brainwashed’ by the Christian pastor Jeremiah Wright while vilifying him as a secret Muslim; according to these critics, he is both a pawn of Wall Street and a Socialist. He is a snobby elitist who identifies with the wretched depraved poor of the third world. Most of all, he is Not Like Us.
That the economy has actually been growing for the last year or more is of little consequence. That taxes are lower now than during Reagan doesn’t matter. Combat forces have left Iraq, terrorist plots are being disrupted at home, and insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against you because you had cancer or they don’t like the way you look. It’s astonishing how Americans who had been so passionate about invading Iraq made no note of leaving it, to say nothing how after the great anxious concern they have long displayed over the threat of terrorism they don’t seem to appreciate when our current government actually susses one out. And it’s downright weird how so many regular Americans feel such concern for the welfare of insurance companies these days.
We Americans, however, are renowned for our ability to get downright weird. You know what I mean. How’s that ammunition stockpile working out? Good thing you invested in that, right? Because Obama wants to take your guns, right? Seeing as how during the past two years gun restrictions have actually been loosened and no move has been made by the Administration to interfere with the right to gun ownership in any way one would think that this particular anxiety would relax, but that’s asking a lot from people who think that the President is a Muslim. They must feel very tense.
My fellow Americans, I love you, I truly do. I know how angry and betrayed you feel right now; the game of musical chairs Mr Bush was playing came to a very sudden end, even quicker than they ever expected it would, and most of you were left without anywhere to sit. Mr Obama wanted the job and he has a lot of responsibility to bear, but he is not to blame for America’s problems and has in fact been demonstrably effective in every measure even if he has fallen short of achieving all that has been hoped for. People were hoping for quite a bit more than is reasonable to expect, but that is the way of things, isn’t it?
I am in no one’s pocket; my own are empty as yours. I see our roads and bridges crumbling, our gas lines and sewers are leaking; this is not time to cut taxes and reduce public spending. Shutting down the government is not going to make our nation stronger or our economy thrive; it is a meaningless sabotage, a reckless partisan stunt that hurts Americans and only helps Republicans. This is not idle speculation, it is the stated goal of both Tea Party and Republican leaders; I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to elect officials whose stated goal is to wreck the government, but that time is certainly not now.
Glenn Beck wants you to remember what you felt like on 9/12/01, which, if you are anything like me, was a mix of rage, confusion, grief and fear; it was an intense raw shock that made people irrational enough to think invading Iraq was a good idea. I think it would be better if you thought about the present; take a deep breath and a close look at the people you may be sending to Washington and reconsider. Please.
I dreamt of a golden lion and a giant camel. The lion was not attacking the camel, but it was facing the camel. The lion’s fur was not tan; it was golden and shimmering in the light. The camel was twice the size of a normal camel, and I believe that it had one hump (dromedary camel). It was not carrying anything on its back, and it was dark brown, the color of weak coffee.
The lion and the camel were on the side of a four-lane highway in Virginia Beach. No one else seemed to notice them. I was in a car looking out when I saw them. The car slowed because it had reached a major intersection, so I had more than a second to take in this sight. In the dream, I wondered what the two were doing there, and I remember thinking that they could get hit by a car.
Later in the dream, I was still in the car, and I was telling Corey to veer right as the road forked. He almost missed the right side of the fork, and I was very upset with him for not listening to me. It was important that we take the right side of the fork, but I have no idea as to why.
This is the third time that I have dreamt of this lion. Once, it jumped out of a wall of foliage and came at me. I cannot remember the details of the second time that the lion appeared, and now the lion and the camel.
The setting for the lion and the camel are completely incongruous: the side of a highway instead of a desert or a jungle. The pairing of these two animals seems just as incongruous. Not that a lion wouldn’t hunt a camel, but it’s doubtful that the two would be in the vicinity of each other.
The camel is known for bearing burdens great distances. The fact that this camel was twice the size of a normal camel could indicate the weight of my burdens. But this camel was carrying nothing on its back. Interesting.
The lion, in dream mythology, is a noble beast, known for strength, the ability to conquer, and the ability to create fear. One dream interpretation says that lions represent inner rage and intimidating situations; while another says that to see a lion in a dream means that you have influence over others, and that you will overcome difficulties.
Am I angry, or am I influential? Am I an influential but angry person? Or perhaps, I am a strong person people fear, but I’m having difficulties? It’s all so confusing.
What is also odd to me is that in one situation I was afraid of the lion, but in the other situation, I was not at all afraid. In the first situation, the lion pounced but did not actually land on me; in the other situation, I saw the lion as being incredibly beautiful, which just goes to show how abstract dream interpretation really is.
This is the first time that I have dreamt of a camel, at least the first time in a number of years. The fact that the camel was so large could symbolize the overwhelming weight I feel because of my burdens.
However, one interpretation is that dreaming of a camel symbolizes an inability to express emotions and to hold onto them. A paradox for me. I have no problems in expressing my emotions. In fact, one person who knew me well said that I was a drama queen. However, I do hold onto things. I have a hard time forgetting a wrong that was done to me or anyone close to me. I take on the problems of those around me whether or not they have asked for my assistance.
Often, I feel that it is my job to protect my family, my children, and my friends. Wouldn’t that be the lion? At the same time, I assume their burdens, which makes me a camel, doesn’t it?
The thing that I find oddest is that on the night that I had this dream (two nights ago), I was not particularly upset about anything. Eldest son had not taxed my patience. I had nothing on my mind except for my headache. I was not angry. I was not upset. I felt no overwhelming need to be there for someone. In fact, everyone had been pretty considerate in light of my five-day migraine. Yet the lion and the camel appeared, out of context, so to speak.
I combed my thoughts to see if anything struck me as being somehow related: I have had the situation in Iran on my mind for a while. Corey smokes Camel cigarettes. I have been worried about making my health insurance payment, but that is nothing new. I have been anxious over Corey getting a job soon, but again, that is not a new problem. In other words, nothing new stands out starkly as something that would cause these two animals to appear by the side of the road.
So why a giant camel and a golden-haired lion? And why did I feel no fear?
When I worked at the zoo for a short while, they were working on building Africa, a new extension to the zoo. I was very interested in the construction, and I found the habitat that they were creating for the lions to be beautiful. However, I should pause here and say that deep down in my heart, I don’t really like zoos. I admire the thought process behind them: to make animals available to the general population so as to increase knowledge and appreciation. But at the same time, I have a very hard time with the premise: putting these animals in habitats that simulate their natural habitats.
What’s wrong with the natural habitats? National Geographic does a wonderful job, both in its magazine and in its television shows of bringing animals into the living rooms of everyday people. So why move the animals in the first place? There used to be a show on television called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I used to love to watch reruns of that show on Saturday afternoon.
The host, Marlin Perkins, would wrestle with gators, hold large snakes, and various other stunts. I remember my high school biology teacher, Mr. Leigh, making fun of Perkins for pretending to wrestle gators, while wranglers were out of the camera shot. I loved Mr. Leigh. I also learned so much from him. Anyway, Wild Kingdom actually wasn’t my first introduction to exotic animals.
I had already seen camels up close in Morocco. And the rain forest that we visited had all kinds of flora and fauna—all without created habitats or cages. I suppose that’s why I have such a hard time seeing animals in zoos, even though the zoos of the 21st century are so far removed from the zoos that had all animals behind bars with cement floors.
Of course, I must point out the if not for zoos, some of the animals there would be dead. For example, several eagles that were injured by some barbarians were put in an eagle habitat so that they could continue their lives even though they could not fly.
Anheuser Busch does the same thing at Busch Gardens. The one in Williamsburg has a wonderful eagle habitat that is open with trees, logs, a stream. None of the eagles placed there can fly any longer, but they are with other eagles, and they have a habitat that roughly approximates their natural homes.
Of course, the scientific part of my brain wonders about the logic behind keeping eagles that are injured. Nature will have its way, no matter how much humans intervene. Although people tend to misinterpret Darwin’s hypothesis about natural selection: It is not about the strongest surviving, but rather about those most able to adapt being ble to survive.
However, in the case of eagles, the converse must be considered: humans are directly to blame for the depletion of the eagle population; not nature. DDT, a chemical no longer used, polluted ground water, streams and lakes, thereby causing many species to suffer, in particular, the eagle.
And then there are the people with guns who think that an eagle would make a good trophy. These people have no soul. How could they? How could they shoot down one of the most majestic birds on the face of the earth for what they call sport? Don’t even try to make the argument that the eagle population needed to be reined in. That has never been the case.
But of course, that was the argument used with the American Buffalo: They were too plenty. So logically, humans shot them almost to extinction.
So yes, zoos are good for maintaining populations of animals that are dwindling, sort of. Although, some of the statistics that I read state that zoos only account for about 2 percent of successful conservation of species. Of course, animals that are bred for zoos no nothing of living in the wild as they have never had that experience. Another paradox.
So what to make of my recurring lion and the very large camel? Is my inner lion trying to tell me that I need to fight harder for something? Someone? Is the camel present to make me take a slow and steady path? Yet another paradox.
Fight but be steady? Fear but sure-footed? Shimmering gold set against muddy brown?
If I were a Freudian, the lion would probably mean that I am seeking out my inner male or some form of my father . . . but I am not a Freudian. I don’t need my inner male to make me strong, even though it was a male lion. One site that I happened upon by accident claimed that the Templars had a mythology in which each individual was born like a camel, with a load upon its back, but once the individual had passed many travails, he became a lion. I was unable to find anything to back up this particular story, but if it were true, wouldn’t that be interesting?
I only know that the burdens that I am bearing are weighty, but not enough to put me down. I have my weaknesses, but have never thought of myself as weak. I am protective of my pride, so to speak, and take on their burdens as my own, but I am not smelly, nor do I spit.
And after all, how many people do you know who can open a conversation with the following statement: I dreamt of a golden lion and a camel?
By the way, did I mention that they’ve found a new kind of giant elephant shrew, one that is related to a group of animals that lived in Africa more than a100 million years ago. I’ll let you know if I dream of shrews. No jokes about shrews, please.
More later. Peace.
Today was a good day. Nothing at all special happened, which is part of what made it a good day. The sky was an amazing, cloudless blue, not hidden by any haze. Temperatures were in the mid 70’s, and a light breeze was blowing.
These are the kinds of spring days that we have too seldom in this area as early spring tends to jump straight into summer, with hot, humid days and hazy sunshine. So on a day like today, I took advantage of the gift nature had presented me, and I sat out in the back yard in the warm spring sun. I took a book, but will admit that I didn’t read many pages.
Brett, too, joined me outside, as did the dogs. Corey seemed more relaxed as he sat in a chair outside talking to his mother, something that always seems to calm him. I took the portable CD player outside and put on some tunes, making for an altogether laid-back afternoon.
I will admit that I spent much more time gazing upwards and daydreaming than I did concentrating on my book. If I had to tell someone exactly where my thoughts wandered, I would be hard-pressed. It was the kind of day-dreaming that has no rhyme or reason to it. I just let my thoughts float on the breeze and go where they wanted.
Granted, the morning did not begin quite so peacefully as today was opening day at the park that lies directly behind our house. I was awakened at 8 a.m. to sounds of horns as people vied for parking spaces. Then the PA system came on, and the realization of what day it was hit me right behind the eyes.
I know. If any of my children were playing in the league, I would be full of excitement at the prospect of opening day. However, since we have lived here, opening day has become something to dread: cars parked haphazardly in the park’s lot and up and down the streets, litter in the front yard from people who have no consideration for other’s property, and lots and lots of yelling of “go, go, go, go.”
You might think that after all of this time I would be used to the clamor, but somehow opening day always seems to impinge upon my reality in the most unpleasant way. Today it was blaring horns early in the morning.
Eventually, the police will come by to ticket the people who seem oblivious to the fire hydrant in the corner of our front yard and the no parking signs on our side of the street. When I try to warn people, they think that I am just being nosy and ignore me, so you’ll have to forgive me if I take some small amount of pleasure when they finally get their tickets.
But back to my day: mysterious tenderness . . .
We sat there in companionable silence, all of us, lost in our own thoughts. I looked around the yard and realized that the gardenia bush would be in bloom soon, and thought about the lantana that needs pruning in the front of the house.
The Jack Russells spent a lot of time with their noses turned toward the heavens, their eyes closed. I remember when we first got them, as small puppies they would sit in the backyard with their snouts turned upwards and move their heads back and forth slowly, almost synchronized. Their noses would twitch as they caught different scents on the wind.
In our house, we call that action being “sun puppies.” Tillie, however, has not quite mastered the Zen of being a sun puppy. She can remain still for a minute, maybe two, before she is off, ferretting out a ball for someone to throw. From experience I know that few Labradors tap into their inner Zen until they reach about three years old.
My old lab Mokie used to love to sun herself, and in the winter, she would take naps against the sliding door whenever the sun was at its brightest on the rear of the house. Once or twice I have found Tillie by the glass door, and it is a sweet reminiscence.
Later, after everyone had come inside, Corey and I were talking, and our conversation drifted to the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Even though he spends his professional life on the water, and he loves to landscape and garden, I told Corey that I thought that he was more of a fire element, not just because he has a fascination with fire, but because of the qualities of fire: it warms; it is unpredictable and passionate; it can mean death, but at the same time, it can bring forth new life, renewal by cleansing an area for new growth. Fire is an element for those who constantly seek change.
Although my star sign is Aquarius, and I love the sound of water, I think that I am more closely allied with air. Everything about the sky amazes me: the creatures that soar and move through the air, the clouds that can occlude or refract, the night sky with all of its stars. I have even put glowing stars on the ceiling of my bedroom so that on the darkest of nights, I still have the heavens above me.
I find tremendous peace in all of those things, but the one thing that I love to behold in the sky is the mixing of my elements: a thunderstorm in which the rain pours down, the sky is back lit by shooting spears of light, and the air moves through everything, causing the trees to sway, the leaves to turn inward, and the earth itself to run in rivulets.
And now that evening is here, I find that I still have a smile on my face, something that has seemed to elude me for forever, it seems.
The only thing that is missing now is the sound of the water gently flowing from the pond, but if I am patient enough, that too will happen. Today is the kind of day that so many people take for granted, but I am learning to appreciate better as a result of the greyer days of the past. Tonight I am will lay my head on the pillow and give up my destiny to the fates.
I can feel my steady heartbeat in my chest. I can content myself with the steadfast love of the man beside me, the family around me, and the friends who keep me close in their hearts.
Perhaps tomorrow my worries will return with the force of a tree bending under the weight of winter ice, but that is tomorrow, and I am not going to spoil this day with troubles that I cannot change in the space of one day, one week, or possibly, one month.
I will leave you with the words of the amazing Carl Sagan. There will be more later. Peace.