angel giants stomp with long necks stretched

I dream about people I don’t even know, sometimes after I think about them so so much that I feel like I almostbutnotquite know them. I dream about people I know and my dream-mind puts them in places I know well, but then they are different…there’s a stream, for instance. The landlord is a squat petty thug and the place is a dump and I’m wondering why my friends want to rent it, other than that they are cheap and like old rotting buildings and, oh, there’s a girl using a sewing machine in the basement. We see her in the picture window as we walk by. Everyone waves. And I guess that is reason enough. I ask my friend if the landlord will clean up the place first and he says no. There is clothing lying on the floor and junk everywhere. That night we have an “art party” there. I don’t even know what an art party is, but apparently it is pretty crazy. People were walking on the walls. It may have been dark and people may have been glowing. Later I wake up (for real) with a staggering cramp in my left calf. Probably all that wall-walking with necrotic dream limbs. Waking life, hmph. There is a light that never goes out there is a light that never goes out there is a light that never goes out. Glad that’s off my sunken ship of a chest. Anyway, I’m climbing up this rocky incline to get to the stream above. When I get there I yell down to the others. There’s no bank up there. The water almost sloshes over the side. This is on a street I used to ride my bike on all the time. There is no stream. A map of my town imprinted on my brain at some point. My dream self makes good use of it. More interesting now than it used to be. Or maybe everything gets less interesting as we get older. Try to surprise me. It can’t be done. I dare you. Outside dreams, of course. The other night an industrial toaster suddenly fell out of a ceiling panel in the dream room next to me, followed by the man there to install it. That surprised me.

Three years before his death at age 41 Franz Kafka wrote in his diary, “I have seldom, very seldom, crossed this borderland between loneliness and fellowship.” He was speaking of his refusal throughout life to accept offers that would open the door to social, even public life. That is what I do. I refuse offers. I am a refuser. Of offers. I listen to dark wave and brood instead. I am a brooder. A refuserbrooder. I concentrate on shunning contact.

The summer is a slow time. But what happens when autumn comes. What happens then. Everything begins to die, that’s what. It’s delicious. The earth opens its pores and accepts all this decaying matter into itself. Nutrients are restored. Birds collect dried seeds from dead flowerheads. The trees remove their clothing with no trace of shame. Their spindly exposed limbs shake and shiver in the October winds. The days shorten and the light takes on a golden cast. All my dendrites tingle. Sleep comes on deeper and shrugs off slower.

As I spun the pedals closer to my building this morning I caught the scent of roasting coffee on the morning breeze. And I forgot about all the fool drivers I’d not so gladly suffered on my ride. Maybe there is an antidote for every poison shoved down our throats. Maybe it takes a lifetime to find them all.

bobcat

In the woods I came upon a young bobcat stalking a rabbit.

My arrival on the scene gave the rabbit the window it needed to escape.

The bobcat rose from its crouch, turned and stared me down before slinking off into the woods.

When I got home a mouse was living in my stove.

Outside a mockingbird splashed luxuriantly in the bird bath.

The orange cat next door was hungry.

I am feeling here and there, but mostly there.

R.I.P. Fiznit, July 1996 – July 31, 2011

Fiznit, the Super Cat

Yesterday evening Em El and I made the decision to release Fiznit from the bonds of her cancer. On Friday she had received chemotherapy, but did not seem to be responding to the treatment. Two and a half weeks earlier she had undergone surgery to remove one of her front legs and her spleen, both of which were riddled with cancer. She had been recovering well until early last week when she stopped eating and began getting sick to her stomach. A blood test revealed that mast cells had returned in force. The chemo she received on Friday was her last option for a solid recovery. Unfortunately the cancer was too strong, and with the sensitive guidance of Fiznit’s internist, we chose to relieve her suffering for good.

We like to think that Fiznit is now reunited with her beloved brother Scratchy, her constant companion from birth until age 11, when he died suddenly of a heart attack. I like to picture them ecstatically rolling around together in a sunny celestial catnip patch of the richest shade of green.

It’s poignant how when you live with an animal for so long, their passing represents more than just the departure of a dear friend and family member. Both Scratchy and Fiznit were with me for much of my adult life up to this point. Now that Fiznit is gone, I feel like an entire era has ended. We often think of the closure of time periods in our lives as marked by events like graduations, leaving jobs, moving to new places, and sadly, the ending of relationships. But often our companion animals are a constant in our lives over the course of the opening and closing of many such time periods. Sometimes they are one of the few or even the only constant. They provide us with comfort, stability, and a warm familiarity that may otherwise be lacking.

I personally have experienced much pain and joy throughout the lives of both Fiznit and Scratchy. They were always there to remind me of the good times, though, and help keep me from dwelling on the bad. I can’t help feeling now, beyond just grief at Fiznit’s death, a deeper ache at the severing of this living tie to my past. She was with me through so much, and her departure leaves a hole of such depth that it may not ever completely close.

Fiznit was a special cat, very much an individualist.  Although she lived for a long time in the shadow of her larger-than-life brother, after he died she stepped forward and really came into her own. She became much more outgoing and  seemed to relish her life as the only cat (and pet) in the household. Although we talked about trying to find a companion for her, we felt that ultimately Fiznit wanted things to stay as they were. After all, no cat could ever replace Scratchy and she probably knew that.

Fiznit won over all the staff at the excellent referral clinic where she spent much of her final week. Her fighting spirit and persistent sass even when she was feeling down heartened those who were caring for her. We all know how horrible cancer can be, though, and in the end we felt we had no choice but to step in and help her surrender what had become a losing battle. Although we will continue grieving for some time to come, we also feel relief that her suffering has now ended.  Rest in peace, little Fizz. You will always be loved.

morbidly beautiful

“Permanent Smile” by Bill Callahan (aka Smog) is one of the more powerful songs about death that I’ve heard. I couldn’t find a video of him performing it on the YouTubes, and reading the lyrics alone doesn’t do the song its full justice, but here they are anyway…

Oh God, can you feel the sun in your back?
Oh God, can you see your shadow, inky black on the sand?
Oh God, can you hear the saltwater drying on your skin?
Oh God, can you feel my heart beating in my tongue?

Oh God, by being quiet, I hope to alleviate my death
Oh God, by sitting still, I hope to lighten your load
When your shadow covers me from head to toe
Curtain every flies, tell me it’s mine, my time to go

Seven waves of insects make babies in, in my skin
Seven waves of insects make families in my skin
(It’s just like animals) It’s just like animals that play
And the flesh…flesh…flesh…rotted off my skull
And then I will have earned my permanent, my permanent smile

Oh God, I never, never asked why
Oh God, I never, never asked why

circles

So I took a look back at what I was rambling about last year around this time, and it was a lot of the same thing. Mostly complaining about the cold and hoping for spring, while simultaneously bemoaning my creative stagnation. How disappointingly predictable I’ve become. Last March I claimed that “never have I anticipated the end of the cold this much.” Hmmph…I believe I’ve topped that again this year. I also spoke of my “struggle to pry away the crust of creative inactivity that has hardened over me, leaving me a dull cistern of lukewarm life juice, sloshing and slopping all over my dried up mental flooring.” Sigh…I really need to get my act together, quit my complaining about this and that, and do something important. My birthday was a few days ago, and it served as yet another reminder that time marches on (nod to Metallica) regardless of whether I’ve got my marching shoes on or not. Lately I’ve been identifying with the character of Ed Chigliak in the late great television show Northern Exposure. Ed is a frustrated artist, a dreamer, and is seemingly incapable of following through on projects or sometimes even starting them in the first place. He drifts through episodes of the show, making his trademark movie analogies, but never really doing too much of anything. I don’t see my identification with Ed as a good thing, especially as he is 21 or so, an age at which such confusion and uncertainty is often a given, whereas I am much older, and yet in some ways I feel like I have not progressed much farther on my path than Ed has. However, I take heart in what the character of traditional healer Leonard tells Ed during one of Ed’s particularly low points: “The path to our destination is not always a straight one, Ed. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” To that I would add that it is also our travel down the road itself that often affects us the most.

owlish

While making dinner in the kitchen last night, I heard a great commotion among the songbirds in the side yard. It’s probably that owl again, I thought. Sure enough, when I pulled back the curtain and peered out the window I saw a large barred owl perched in literally the same exact place on the same exact branch as last time. Likely to be the same owl, I figured. The tufted titmice were leading the mob, as usual, sounding the alarm for all the other birds in the area. There is something about these tiny birds banding together in the face of danger that really gets to me. They are so brave! Here is a giant predator many, many times larger than they are, and yet they boldly confront it with no sign of fear! If only all of us humans displayed such bravado. Perhaps then there wouldn’t be so many downtrodden among us. It’s staggering to think of a world in which everyone refused to be bullied, and instead stood proud and defiant in the face of abusive authority.

dinner guest

[photo by Denis-Carl Robidoux, used under Creative Commons]
As I sat down at the table for dinner last night, I looked out the window and there was a barred owl in a nearby tree staring right back at me with its depthless black eyes (think Brother Justin in Carnivale). The owl hung out there on the same branch for a good 45 minutes. At one point, a ragtag band of songbirds landed on some branches about six feet away from the owl and raised a noisy ruckus, trying to scare it away. But it remained impassively in place, occasionally swiveling its big head from left to right, or lifting a talon to scratch its fluffy body. Every once in a while something would catch its interest and it would zero in for a closer look. Clearly the owl’s presence had stirred up the local songbird population, as the air was resonant with nervous chatter and warning cries. A predator in our midst! Raise the shields! I found myself cheering on the brave cluster of titmice, chickadees, and cardinals that threw down their petty differences to unite against a common foe. It was quite a dinnertime show!
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