my thoughts dried up so i wrote this instead

When you isolate yourself, you have no one else to blame when things go awry. There is some small comfort in this. It is possible to go days without talking to anyone. This can be a magical combination of your own self-imposed silence and a general indifference on the part of others. Together we can make it work. The woman in the alley enjoys screaming hateful words at her grandson but she is sweet as pie when I say hello. This dichotomy hurts my brain. The alley is loud in the summer. The ladies across the way gun their motorcycles at all hours. The level of their inconsideration for people living together in a confined space staggers me. Small children yell and sing and talk like adults. I brood at the kitchen table. If it weren’t for the swatch of overgrown vegetation threatening to engulf my porch, I would have to see, as well as hear, the denizens of the alley and that I could not bear. Meanwhile, in the plus column, the city installed four solar-powered compacting trash cans on a main street in the neighborhood. I was overjoyed to throw my dog’s poop in them. Then they took one away. It was the most conveniently located one. Why. On another street near my house the city erected an expensive-looking fence in the median. A few weeks later they removed it. Why. Every day I see the thousands of dollars I pay in property taxes hemorrhage out onto the streets in the form of Kafkaesque activities such as this. It pains me. I could make much better use of those thousands of dollars than by funding the erecting and dismantling of fences. Segueing into the employment realm, it’s summertime at work which results in a curious laissez faire attitude toward attendance. I like it but it confuses me. I am always suspicious of it. Yet there is a natural relaxed cadence I cannot ignore, and so I allow it to carry me in its wake. When I feel agitated, I look at the little pictures in the dictionary and this soothes me. Last night I had a pleasant time in dreamland, but I forgot most of it upon waking. I don’t like that. I need to remember my dreams or waking life seems vacant. Do you ever wonder about the nature of friendships? They are curious things. Coming and going, rarely staying. Sometimes they wane; sometimes they wither. Sometimes they fail over the stupidest things. And you wonder if it could have been avoided, but in reality if it was a strong friendship it should have been able to withstand most of the nonsense we manage to self-generate. Which then begs the question of why the friendship existed in the first place. Convenience, perhaps. Boredom. Desperation for human contact [see: possibility of going for days without speaking to anyone, as outlined above]. I have had many friendships through the years, for all of these listed reasons and more. Not many have lasted, but the tiny few that have are worth more than gold. The question is then, do I now need more friends? What purpose would they serve? It gets harder to make friends as you get older. It’s horrible but I find myself more judgmental than I used to be of people when considering them as potential friends. I am also perhaps even more guarded now. Friendship requires time and effort, both valuable resources that I don’t expend lightly. How can you know if it’s worth it. Most of the time I am content to be by myself. I also have a dog now. The ultimate friend. Always dependable, always happy to see you. Can’t go to the bathroom without your help, which is a little weird. Doesn’t talk, which is both good and bad. Sometimes I wish he’d talk, just a little. See, even though I am content by myself, I have this annoying urge to reach out sometimes. It’s irrepressible. Sometimes everything can’t be found in books. Or nature. Most things, yes. But not all. This is the curse of human nature. We are not 100% autonomous. And I am so restless. This incessant unease shadows my every move. The panic. The urge to drop out. The crushing confinement of your own mind. We’re all so spread out. Held together by weakening links. I trip over my own shallow roots and fall face-down in a mucky bog. Roll around and let the clay harden on your skin. Let it cover all that you see as wrong. It feels so good.

foregone conclusions foreclosed on

In the morning I ride my bike with reckless abandon. It is my time, sometimes my only time. Today I met a friend. These things happen, on occasion. We talked as we rode downtown together. Without a bike I’d be lost. When I step off the pedals, the next 8 hours blur past. [Sit and click. Sit and click. Clatter of keyboard.] My friend must leave again. Plans did not materialize. Alternate plans were made. But he must leave to complete them. It’s sad. He was glad to be back. And now he must go. It’s not easy to uproot and grow roots somewhere else. These things take time. I know. Sometimes you get lucky and it’s easier, but sometimes the soil is dead and grey. I hope he may return someday, though I may be gone if he does. I hope I’m gone. This city wears me down. My roots are dry and withered.

The other day Em Ell and I met a cat. He was outside our back door with a long-ago torn ear. He was small, grey and white with a narrow face and yellow eyes. A friendly cat. He rubbed on my legs and rolled on his back. I gave him food and water but he did not want them, at least not while we still stood there. He just wanted a little attention, like so many of us do.

I respect the subtlety of cats. It’s now been 8 months since cancer took my cat. It feels like much longer. Perhaps because I had lived for so long before her death with cats in my life. Now there are none underfoot and I miss them. A cat’s affection is a reward, something earned, not given out lightly. That warm, soft weight in your lap soothes much pain. And a litter box is such a tiny cross to bear in return. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to feel that weight again.

Outside is grey and raindrops fall. Inside I too am grey. Though I can’t rightly say why.

down with extremes, including temperatures, both physical and mental

Another hot day dawns in the city.  The lady in the alley screams at her grandson, like every other day, morning, noon, and night.  It’s all I can do not to absorb the daily toxic assault on my senses, to sort the good from the bad and hope I got it right.  I hear the sound of a warbler singing in the tree out back (a new yard bird?!), but as I rush out onto the deck, a man fires up his motorcycle two doors down, scaring the bird away for good and drowning out the sound of everything except the white noise in my head.  I miss opportunities for many reasons, not the least of which is my unwillingness to take them.  Instead I sit and struggle to lose touch with reality as it envelops me in the shroud of its cold black wings.  It is so much easier to continue pushing away than to tentatively open up a little and risk feeling different.  The more I read about the natural world, about the beings other than humans that surround us, the more I think I was not meant to be human.  My consciousness is a curse; my constant thoughts the daggers that leave me to limp bleeding through the days.  What I wouldn’t give to not have to make a decision and then question it for eternity afterwards.  What I wouldn’t give to not have to sit in a freezing cold box every day, staring at the menace of two glowing screens.  What I wouldn’t give to not have to keep repeating myself.

the fog that turns people inside out

As I sit here staring out at the foggy woods, interrupted only by my compulsions to chase away the squirrels leaping from the house onto the bird feeder, I once again contemplate my general feelings of dissatisfaction. Yesterday, walking home from the park in the cool drizzle, I paused on the bridge over the interstate. I look down at this abomination: two strips of hot pavement running north and south, hardened abscesses cut into the Earth, supporting two-ton blocks of steel racing here and there, the blocks full of people (of all things!) going everywhere and nowhere all at once. I suppress the bile rising from my gut and walk on. I pass by the stream and stare at the trash floating in the water, the grotesquely shredded plastic bags hanging in the trees. I curse my sensitivity, my thin skin like a gossamer membrane through which I have no control over what passes in or out. But by turning away from the ugliness, by trying to dull the extremes and desperately seek out a middle ground (the Middle Way!), I only make myself sicker. The only times I come close to traveling on the middle path are while running or riding my bicycle for long distances. In motion, my mind stands still. When my body rests, my mind races without end. But I cannot stay in constant motion, so I continue in my struggle to find the right state of mind.

“Develop a state of mind like the earth, Rahula. For on the earth people throw clean and unclean things, dung and urine, spittle, pus, blood, and the earth is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And as you grow like the earth no contacts with pleasant or unpleasant will lay hold of your mind or stick to it.

Similarly you should develop a state of mind like water, for people throw all manner of clean and unclean things into water and it is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And similarly with fire, which burns all things, clean and unclean, and with air, which blows upon them all, and with space, which is nowhere established.

Develop the state of mind of friendliness, Rahula, for, as you do so, ill-will will grow less; and of compassion, for thus vexation will grow less; and of joy, for thus aversion will grow less; and of equanimity, for thus repugnance will grow less.”

~from the Majjhima Nikaya, translated by A.L. Basham

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