Feathers

It’s funny how the blogging world seeps into your blood. On any given day, you might be walking along the pavement between gas pump and cashier when you come upon a ratty pigeon feather on the pavement. Instead of kicking it aside, stepping on it, or even acknowledging that a bird out there is less one feather or perhaps is a bird no more, you think of a blogger who celebrates feather encounters. You grab your camera and take a picture of a foot and a feather and post it on the Internet. That’s the kind of thing bloggers do.

The feather lightens the load strapped to this 102-degree day manifested in furry, sticky, dense air and the slow and weak sunset holding no promise of relief.

So I go home and take a cold shower and slick back my wet hair, lay down under the vents pumping cool air into the room, and ride on the big, scary wave that is life now. It’s not that anything terrible has happened. It’s that nothing is the same. Not one thing. And I have to be OK with that because like bird feathers, things don’t stick forever. They break loose and drift away. As I glide along the river toward sleep, I wonder if it’s possible for a lone feather to give me enough altitude to fly away for just a little while.

 

Up and down

I watched as a sizable limb cracked free from an elm and plummeted to the earth with a shuddering thud. It was a busy day in a fast part of the city. I think I was the only one to see it.  Who looks up?

Days later, standing on the sidelines of a bustling outdoor market, I watched a bouquet of  mylar balloons bob on the current until they entangled themselves on power lines. The resulting blast vibrated my ribcage and sent the overhead wires bouncing like jump ropes. Again, no one else saw it. I had to point up to several worried folks clutching their chests and looking around in confusion. Someone even called the police.

I don’t know what makes me notice these things. Perhaps some small movement, or a shift of air pressure, but at just the right moment, my eyes shift skyward. I’m a daydreamer, a thinker, and I’m prone to studying even the smallest of details. Sometimes I see things no one else does and miss the obvious.

The severed limb jarred me the most. Something about its limp form splayed in the parking lot, long green fingers enveloping the car next to it, seemed apologetic. I looked up at the tree again, to what seemed a healthy and whole entity. How freakish, I thought, and yet totally the way of nature. Unpredictable, deadly, awesome.

Then, the what ifs began.

What if someone had been in that car? What if a small child had run up to the parked car? What if we had picked that parking space? I’m always asking what if?

Sometimes I don’t see what’s right there. One of our cats has an inoperable tumor.  Just a few weeks ago it wasn’t there at all. One of my girls discovered it as a small lump and called me tearfully when I was in a meeting.  I dismissed her worries. What did she know that I did not? Today that smallish mass that felt like a gummy bear it is now a heavy rock crowding the cat’s pelvis. It grows and grows and there is nothing to be done, the veterinarian says.

Our finances are, as they have been for a while now, like a slowly filling balloon. Letting the air out of the balloon is a careful, discriminating process. Who or what will make the cut? Years before, when we had lines of credit, we maxed out a card trying to save this cat’s brother. All the IVs and shots we could afford, all the tests we could manage did nothing to save him.

Make him comfortable, the vet says. You’ll know when it’s time.

There are a few things on life support around here. Things that even a few years ago I thought were rock solid, like a tall, seemingly healthy tree with strong branches and full leaf cover. But inside, like a tumor, a slow rot devours the core. One day, which seems like all the others, something crashes within inches of your skull.

I’m wide awake, but I’ve numbed a part of myself to imminent loss, to the threat of loss, to upheavals. When pressed for answers I can’t give any. At the same time, I’m making flip-flopped choices.

I spent a month saying yes to every invitation I received at the expense of my yard and gardens and personal affairs. Why not? There’s always a reason to say no to living life.

I spent a month seeking my happiness. I loved it. I felt closer to myself than I had in years. Now, I pick up the rake and shovel, I prepare for another good-bye, rub the healing balm between my palms and massage what is fixable.

I’m easily bored. I’m also a bit of a thrill junkie. When things get boring — or scary — I need something to divert my attention. I had an old tattoo modified, made it about four times the original size.

I welcomed the cutting, stinging sensation. I can deal with this, I thought. This pain has a beginning and an end. I can breathe through it, manage it. The tattoo artist was young and good-looking and he bought me cookies from the bakery next door (because I admitted I hadn’t had much to eat that day.) It was not lost on me that although it was part of his job, he was leaning into me for more than an hour. Pleasure for the price of pain?

All week, the sting at the site, the healing throb and itch, kept my thoughts away from the inevitable. It’s the free-floating emotional pain, at sea without land in sight, that is unbearable. I’m not so good with that. Is anyone? Is that why so many of us don’t look up?

Who carries the seeds of a fast-growing tumor? What heavy limbs dangle over our dreams?

What can we do to make the most of every day?

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade
Edenland has resurrected her Fresh Horses Brigade meme. In it she asks: Who are you? I wrote this a few days ago while trying to make sense of recent happenings. It says as much about who I am as anything else on this blog.

 

Setting free the butterflies

‎”You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair.”
~ Swedish proverb

After: a painted lady butterfly

On Monday, we opened a mesh and plastic butterfly cage and urged five winged creatures to leave their nest, to abandon the predictability of their lives, and face the unknown.

A month ago they arrived  in a jar, five little caterpillars no bigger than pine needles. As the days passed, they grew in length and girth until they were lumbering, bloated things with barely room to move.

Before: very tiny caterpillars

Frankly, caterpillars are a crashing bore. Some days that jar sat on the shelf untouched. By the time they were ready to cocoon, those caterpillars were enormous. Then they did this bizarre thing: they suspended themselves by, what, their tongues? their feet? from the jar lid and curled into a J shape and somehow magically changed from fuzzy and lumpy to smooth and iridescent.

It was like Botox for the insect world.

Now came the really, really boring part. We peeled the paper lid on which the chrysalides were mounted and pinned it to the side of the mesh and plastic pavilion. It looked like some kind of pathetic science fair project involving wads of chewed gum and safety pins. Then, we waited and waited and fell asleep from the sheer boredom of the unmoving wads of gum. Until…

Late last week I heard a flapping sound. I looked over and ta-dah! just like that without fanfare or drumroll the first butterfly was born. It perched on the mesh, dripping meconium and vibrating all casual as if everyone does something like that when no one is looking.  Determined to see one of the remaining four emerge, I carried the cage around the house, peering in obsessively. But every damned time I looked away to make a sandwich or take a call or go to the bathroom, I’d come out to find more flapping of wings and yet another empty cocoon. I started to think they had performance anxiety.

By Saturday I had a cage of winged, elegant creatures who were the embodiment of happiness. Unlike their boring former selves who put me to sleep with the endless parade of eating and pooping, these guys held my attention with their pulsating wings, their wiry antennas, and inquisitive proboscis that rolled out to impressive lengths.

These butterflies have me thinking about change, of course, the whole metamorphosis thing and all. Change doesn’t always happen in front of us when we’re watching and waiting. It grows in the shadows of our inattention.

I’m trying to look at whatever it is that’s going on with me as a metamorphosis rather than a gathering of sad birds overhead, preparing to nest in my hair.

Those butterflies, so beautiful and delicate, waving those wings inside their cage. I wanted to keep them in my pocket. But I knew on the most primal level they needed to fly free. Even if freedom meant flapping right into the waiting beaks of hungry birds.

Oh, imagine the joy of ascending to the blue dome, buffeted by the wind. Could that ever be traded for the predictable security of a mesh cage?

Today, a painted lady visited our lily garden. Could it be?

Here’s a link with videos of the various stages.

The opposite

shadows1

Happiness is yours; it grows from the opposite of what you expect.

Instead of control, it grows from letting go.

Instead of stuff, it grows from simplicity.

Instead of the need for 15 minutes of fame, it grows from planting flowers and vegetables in an abandoned city plot, anonymously.

~ Geri Larkin

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The one where I have a temper tantrum

I’ve tried out our new digital edition of the Detroit Free Press, which will be the primary way to view the daily paper beginning Monday. Only on three days — Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays — will hard copies of the paper be delivered to my doorstep. The rest of the week involves placing my laptop on the table, amid coffee cups, cereal bowls and small children with sticky fingers.
The rest of my week looks like this:
digitalnews
It is user friendly, I’ll give it that. You just move the cursor over the face of the page to what story or feature you want to read, click, and the entire item is available on the right side of the screen.
Easy. Yes. No more jump pages. True.
However, I’m not really excited about this new technology. I’m not excited about having my laptop on the table.
What? Don’t read the paper at breakfast?
I have news for you, if I don’t get the news with my coffee and cereal, I’m not getting it until the sun sets. I am a stay at home mother. Do I need to put a finer point on it?
Laptops don’t fold, at least not into tidy rectangles or squares, so as not to offend other breakfasters gathered around the table. Laptops don’t dry in the sun or by a heating vent. Keyboards don’t work well with Rice Krispies jammed under the keys.
I’ve bitched about this before, when I learned the fate of my beloved Freep.

Won’t you allow me a quick, powerful, soul cleansing tantrum?

jack

joan
cat

One more thing? If this somehow saves the paper and keeps folks employed, then it’s worth it.

OK. Bring on the news.