unfinished studies in probability

I am trying to determine how it is possible that I never see my immediate neighbors. We literally share walls. And I am out in the streets at least twice a day walking Farley. Yet I never encounter them. How is this possible. What are the odds of me seeing even one of them? That’s what I’d like to know, though I’m not at all a gambling man, just a curious one. Is it because I leave at random times, and they also leave at random times, making our odds of intersection quite low? Or is it because I leave at random times and they leave at the same times, also making our odds of encountering each other low. I know that I never leave at the same time, so perhaps I am the reason we never meet. My erratic behavior may be the cause of our never meeting. However, some people in the neighborhood I see quite often, even though they don’t even live on my street. Why them, I ask, why not the ones so close by. This I don’t understand.

Sometimes I look out a window and I see my immediate neighbors but they appear so far away, like they are in another dimension, another world even, or as if in a dream, and I consider that I may never know them for it is too late, too much time has passed and so we are destined to remain strangers. Somehow, in some hidden unreachable part of my insides, I think I know this is true, and for some reason it saddens me, though I don’t quite know why, but I think it may have to do with how I have created personalities and lives for all of them and the stories of their lives in my head are ongoing and can grow quite elaborate at times, and for reality to now impose on these stories would ruin them and probably depress me.

Meanwhile, the other day as I approached the revolving door at work from outside, someone also approached it from inside, and we pushed simultaneously and the door swung with ease, depositing each of us in places opposite of where we had been, and this was pleasing to me, for it rarely happens, and in general I am ambivalent to revolving doors, yet when serendipity such as this occurs I am reminded of their occasional magic, leaving me with a lingering sense of connection to my partner in door-pushing whom I didn’t know and didn’t speak to nor do I want to know or ever speak to.

the tricky truth of time

I have not been to work in 11 days. I will not return for another two. I love this time. I have been taking this break at the end of the year for at least five years running. It has become important to me, this shucking off of the past 12 months in preparation for the new rack of days about to be set.

What happens is a curious thing. The coccoon of time unravels and I am released into a nebulous world of days and hours unmarked by the usual frames of reference. On occasion, I find myself searching my mind for what day it is. Recall is often laborious. When it does occur, I laugh quietly. I lose track of what days the recycling is picked up, when certain shows air on the radio, who among my circle might be working at any given moment.

I know it is morning when the yellow light pours into the sunroom from the east. It warms me over my shoulder as it falls across the pages of my book.

I know it is midday when Farley starts angling for a walk.

I know it is evening when the last light fades, leaving a gloom to settle in the house.

But the weekdays tend to blur into the weekend. Morning hours are in general distinguishable, one from the other, but the afternoon hours caper gleefully, spinning in circles around the maypole, daisy-chaining their elastic selves around my helpless body, freeing me from the snare of routine. They tempt me into running for the hills. Crouching in the thickets, they whisper to me snatches of their secrets, of ‘p time’ and ‘m time,’ with the laughability of it all unconcealed in their twinkling eyes. We are not binding straps, they say; rather we are possibility, we are discovery, we are whatever happens between the beginning and the end.

Soon, though, Colonel Responsibility will beckon with his truncheon for me to trudge down from the hills. Under the hard Colonel’s watchful eye, I will refasten the familiar leghold trap, grinding my teeth as the steel fangs puncture my skin, reopening barely-healed wounds. The yellow light will disappear behind windowless walls. The afternoon hours will sheepishly turn their backs on me, showing me their ugly sides. And I will wonder again about their truth they never fully share.

Soundtrack:  EarthHex: or Printing in the Infernal Method (Thanks, Taidgh!)

digging in the shade of the vowel tree

Sylvia Plath wrote of
intolerable vowels
entering her heart
but what of ruthless
consonants headed
to our brains.

We all know about a-e-i-o-u and sometimes y. They may be intolerable but their numbers are small. And they are more easily made to do our bidding. The consonants, in contrast, are legion and their rigidity stifles. Perhaps the only way to harness their true power is to one-by-one start taking them away.

Anna Kavan wrote:

I had only learnt how to be friends with shadows; it might be too late to learn the way of friendship in the sun.

Friendship in the sun is a mirage. The way to it is false. The sun fades color and one day it will kill us all. Shadows make easy friends: we pass through them as they do through us. Few stay long. It is their nature. Sometimes it feels like it is in all our natures to expand and contract, pull away and grow close, like a squeezebox played by a jittery ghost.

Kafka wrote:

No one will want to lie in clouds of mist with me, and even if someone did, I couldn’t expel the mist from my head.

This gets at the heart of the problem, I think. One feels an isolation and maybe a desire to connect, sometimes even a desperate mania. But who can share a dreamy solitude? By definition, no one. And if it was at all even possible, the mist remains. How could we find each other. How could one’s dream self operate in reality? The pilot seat in your head is unlike the one outside of it. Out there, we cannot twist the knobs, adjust the instruments without consultation, without repercussions, without the sun blinding us. In the shadows, the mist, these difficulties melt away.

Jung wrote:

A man can hope for satisfaction and fulfillment only in what he does not yet possess; he cannot find pleasure in something of which he already had too much.

Yikes, Carl, that’s bleak, even by my admittedly generous standards. In fairness, on the next page of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung also states: “The needs and necessities of individuals vary. What sets one free is for another a prison.” So I guess one could argue that for some people overindulgence sets them free, although I don’t think that’s his point with the former quote. I think it is about anticipation. Jung is talking about this concept in the context of the development of analytical psychology, and yet it stands out in the text as such a sweeping statement. But I don’t think this aphorism or whatever you want to call it can be universally applied. Certainly competitive eaters don’t find pleasure in the 18th hot dog in a row that they’ve shoved down their throats. But can Jung honestly think that attaining the love of another person does not lead to satisfaction and fulfillment? I mean, I will grant him that unrequited love is an exquisite thing, and possibly more intense on the whole than many long-term relationships. But no satisfaction and fulfillment for those in love? I don’t know, maybe he is not including love or other emotions here. Maybe he is referring strictly to material things, in which case I willingly concede his point.

Édouard Levé wrote:

The full weight of depression comes on between 1-5 PM, particularly when I am home by myself. Mornings and night are more filled with promise.

Filled with promise. Is that what we are after? Moments filled with promise? Is it merely the anticipation we crave, what Jung says we can find satisfaction and fulfillment in? Anticipation can be tantalizing, I’ll admit. But how. How can we be satisfied with mere promise. Inherent in promise is a pledge to fulfill at some point in the future, not at the moment of the promise. Like an IOU. Is it the step we take to accept the promise that is meant to satisfy? Is it the mental and/or emotional trust fall we allow ourselves to take? If so, what of broken promises. Do those negate the previous gain in fulfillment? Well, do they, Jung? If he were here, I’d have more than a few questions for him.

Levé also wrote: “Above a certain height I like what I see. Below it I don’t.” I suppose we can read this on a literal or a metaphorical level. What is the certain height. And is it a chronological point, a philosophical one, a spiritual one. Who knows. I think we can safely say, though, that whatever the certain height represents, it changes between individuals. Remember how Jung said what sets one person free is another person’s prison.  Some people don’t like what they see above a certain height, while others crane their necks for a peek. Some spend their lives craning for that view, but some are content to not look. They don’t want to know…they look away in fear, shame, embarrassment, whatever.

So what is the conclusion. Is Kafka’s mist the same as Carson’s foam? Sometimes it’s a strain to make all the connections. Certainly reading and writing are key decoder rings. Endless battles, ceasefires, sneak attacks, and truces with the vowel and consonant armies. And maybe the ladder stretches high enough to see above the mist. I think others have ladders high enough, too. If we squint hard enough we can probably see each other, mouths flecked with foam, across the scorched battlefield strewn with bloody words and mangled sentences. Hello there! I do not have rabies. I am merely seeking the sublime. Perhaps you’d care to meet in the mist and discuss for a few moments. I’ll be waiting.

we cut our visions with two eyes

I do get bored, I get bored
In the flat field
I get bored, I do get bored
In the flat field

Observe the subject with one hand covering the right eye. There is no movement. Not a flicker. Nothing. Whatever is inside leaks out, gurgling, gargling, a choked-up phlegmy mess. A valve would be…useful. Or would…it. There are many emails. Please refrain from using Reply All, people, for the love of Peter, Paul, & Mary (not my love, mind you, but still). So many pointless useless emails. A flood, if you will. And I delete them. But this is not what I am talking about with the leaking and the choked-up mess (though I can see cause for confusion there). No, that was just an aside. Let me tell you a story. A long, long time ago, it seems like maybe it never happened or it was someone else, I was lying on my bed and I was making discoveries that I knew were important. Altering the trajectory of a lifetime of troubled thinking, of inward pointing. It’s hard to say, yes, it’s hard to say what exactly altered the arc de développement. [Now I don’t really know much French, but I love words of all persuasions…I do not discriminate…I am not a word racist {internal note: that doesn’t even make sense given the meaning of these words (words are not classed by race, although they are classed by class, a different kind of class from that which is sometimes tied to race, though, with less political overtones, perhaps), but that’s okay…consider it a colloquial use…or something…and I see that I am falling into ellipses again]. Anyway, as the breeze blew my curtains around and my red carpet screamed up at me, why am I red, oh, why am I red, what sudden alarming effect am I having on the growth of this boy into a man-something, I wrapped my head in paper, poked holes in it near my ear-holes, and opened them to new exciting sounds. Inside of me often felt weird and funny and I knew, I knew there was something there. Something only I could touch.

And in the words of S.E. Hinton, whom we should all know and love, that was then, this is now. I am alone here. No one comes to visit. My superior is away and suddenly I realize she is one of few who visits. I’m not doing anything. I am lost. I don’t know what to do. This is not groundbreaking research, mind you. No one is selling this nonsense to the corporations and getting rich, I assure you. We’ve been through this before. I just wandered off into the weeds somewhere back there, maybe 20 years ago or so. Or was it 20 minutes. My years and minutes frolic together. What really happened in 20 years, or 20 minutes. Very little. A lot of touching the thing inside. That’s about it. And now it is spilling out, sort of like slippery entrails only people on the fringes savor. I cannot stop it. But you should know that nothing remains the same. I’m in here changing the words around. Everything is in flux. Parenthetically, flux is a good word. I like flux. Marty McFly reports the flux capacitor is fluxing. Marty, you bastard. I am old. Where is my red carpet.

I find it exhilarating to erase my own words. Huge swaths of thoughts I may have deliberated over for hours, gone just like that…I am giddy over this. Maybe there are too many words in the world. And taking them away is important somehow. Everywhere people are vomiting up words and few people are listening. They may listen for a bit here and a bit there, but they move on. The news cycle is like REM sleep. Eyelids flickering, your lips shuddering, no noise emitted, no recollections of what went down. I feel sick from it all, gagging on dry word chunks clogging my throat.

We are at large. That came into my head, just now. It’s like they say, the suspect is at large. But really, we are at large. We are out there in the world, large. We are bloated, like the giant helium balloons floating above a parade. There we are, large, waddling down the streets, a few feet off the ground, full of ourselves. Other smaller people, in other countries perhaps, are running with sticks below us, propping us up, praying that we don’t deflate.

At work the IT team eats in the lunchroom. Very few people eat in the lunchroom, I think. Well, they are in there being all rowdy, expressing their opinions loudly to each other. This is not how they are while embedded. Only amongst themselves do they feel free to expound on their theories about Kanye West, for example. In meetings, they are meek, quiet, often sullen. In the hallways they nod, perhaps say “Hey” but nothing more. None of the effusiveness displayed in the lunchroom. None of that. They save that only for each other. How nice it is to belong, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed. Now the time has come for me to hurl myself outdoors to forage for cookies. Please leave a message at the beep. [Psst…I’m back. It smelled like mulch outside.]

In my yearn for some cerebral fix
Transfer me to that solid plain
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
And drag me there with deafening haste

*Title from Misfits “Cough/Cool.” Prelude and postlude from Bauhaus “In The Flat Field.”

why does this channel play such a peculiar strain of white noise

Your shoulders bend forward to keep out the world. I see it. What is the point. Why do we insist on throwing ourselves out into the fray. Retreat! Climb onto this liferaft I have constructed from a few termite-riddled planks bound together with the discarded hairs from your head. It’s all different but the same. Longing and self-denial: our life’s work, the unrequitable nectar from which we feed, desperate fools that we are. I can’t bear to look.

Today I took Farley to Spiderweb City. I heard a Black-billed Cuckoo, a bird I identify with. Common but secretive? Rumored to predict rain? Maybe not. I came home, ran around inside the house with my paint bucket, sweating, the futility of it all welling up inside, allegro. Mainlining futility, hoping someday for the pure uncut junk that blows your mind.

Later: party time. An invitation not refused. Perhaps the strangest party I have yet attended in a lifetime of suffering strange parties. Now here I sit, a party of one. Freebasing dictionaries and dreaming of foreign scents. The window is open to let in the rare cool night air. The city crickets patch together their ragged symphony. I am restless with the other music, but not drowning out the crickets. The stage is set for insomnia. Cue white noise…aaand, ACTION.

Observer versus participant in the steel cage match of life. Who wins. I wish I knew. Not that it would matter. I can’t change now. I feel like a bad character actor playing myself when I go out in public. The superficial bumbler. Kafka talks about being alone and how it restores himself to himself. How he comes alive when alone. The noise in his head quiets. He says, “Being alone has a power over me that never fails. My interior dissolves […] and is ready to release what lies deeper.” When two people are together in aloneness it is a curious thing. In some ways it is liberating. I think it may be the best we can hope for, but I still can’t see how it ends.

So we are afloat on this rotten raft held together by your hair. And I reach to pull your shoulders back but they no longer move. Like my spine they are stuck out of place. It’s dark now and the sea grows rough. I know the morning will come, but what does that even mean. At what point did the day really end. Some weeks stretch like taffy. Others make Friday the pin on this grenade and you’re stretching your long thin arm to it all week but it’s always out of reach until all of a sudden you’re yanking the pin out and it all blows up in your face. Or it’s a dud. Either way you lose another seven days. The box of grenades is not bottomless.

The rain is falling now, again. Like the cuckoo sang it would. Rain crow, rain crow, sing us a shower. This bird is killed by pesticides; this bird collides with TV towers, with tall buildings that house banks and corporate overlords. Let us all share the blame for killing a bird that sings when it is about to rain. For there are few sounds so soothing as gently falling rain.

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.

of scents and sounds: when kindling fails to ignite

In a recent post, a fellow blogger whose writing I enjoy surveyed the sometimes tenuous ability of words to capture thoughts and feelings, to provide us with the solace and understanding we as humans (and perhaps aliens) seek. As someone who has spent his entire life relying on the written word both to interact with and decode the world around me, I read the post with interest, and it set off a chain reaction of thought. Sometimes it feels like we introverts have limited tools at our disposal, but of these tools, for many of us written language is often the sharpest and most accurate. But what about when it dulls or falls short? Unable to write ourselves out of the cages we’re trapped in, what other implements exist to sever our bonds, assuage our pain, aid us in puzzling out our conception of the world and our place within it?

Humans arrive on planet earth armed with an arsenal of senses. From the point of our harsh entry into this world we explore our surroundings using our rapidly developing senses of taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing. As adults, these senses, though apt to weaken over time, continue to serve as an interface between us and our environment. And so I’ve come to rely on them when words are not enough to dig me out of whatever rabbit hole I’ve fallen down. For brevity’s sake, in this post I will only focus on the two I’ve found to be most effective in mitigating mental or emotional collapse: scent and hearing.

The human sense of smell, while not as developed as in other species, is still a formidable system. We smell food cooking and find it makes us hungry. We know that certain scents can also stimulate memories, as Marcel Proust famously described. Scent (and its companion taste) can therefore help us revisit our past and perhaps plumb its depths for answers to our present questions.

As an example, I will deconstruct the roots of my strong nostalgic attachment to the scent of pine trees. About a decade ago, I moved to a strange and foreign land. It was like no place I’d ever lived before. I lacked the familiar and suffered as a result. One day I discovered a small grove of pine trees behind my workplace. When feeling low at my desk in the windowless bowels of the library, I’d creep out the back door and stroll down the sidewalk, breathing in the familiar pine scent. It inevitably flooded my “emotional brain,” the limbic system, with pleasurable sensations. When I probed at this reaction, I unearthed a store of early memories of summer vacations spent on the northeastern and southeastern coasts of the U.S., where the rich scent of pitch pines (northeast) and loblolly pines (southeast) hangs in the warm summer air. After this realization, I explored what it was about these times that seeded such a deep-rooted nostalgia in my brain. A number of possibilities came to me. For one, these vacations brought me close to nature, and a different kind of nature than what was available to me at home. At an early age, these trips helped form the foundation of my lifelong passion for the natural world. These vacations were idyllic, full of fun and leisure time, all experienced within a framework of the outdoors. Thus, important associations grew within me. I am also a Pisces, the water sign, and have always felt an affinity for water (though we’ve not been without our occasional disagreements over the years). Observing and listening to water soothes me. As a child I spent a lot of time near or in water. And so our family vacations at the ocean reinforced this. Now when I crush a few pine needles between my fingers, the scent rushes to my hypothalamus, triggering the resultant emotional reaction, i.e. all of the above. How does this help me? What I took from this was the knowledge of some actions I can take to improve my mood. I can travel to the beach (not always feasible, but good for longer term relief) or I can sniff some pine trees (easy enough to find and provides a quick fix). This is good information to know and I use it often.

Now let’s set scent aside and move to hearing. Hearing permits a range of constructive activities, but here I’d like to discuss it only in the context of music. In a 2001 Scientific American article, Kristin Leutwyler reports that no human culture on earth has lived without music, that music existed before agriculture, and possibly even language. Think about that for a moment. People may have been making music before they even began speaking and writing! This makes so much sense. Even though I don’t formally play music as much as I used to, I have always felt that it is the purest form of creative expression. As much as I love tinkering with words, sitting down and playing guitar or bass never fails to unspool rich threads of satisfaction inside me. While I have experienced similar transcendent moments while writing, I have to admit that they are rare and fleeting. Music feels like a more natural release; it comes from some deep unconscious stream, where it steeps in primal rhythmic tannins. There were many times in the past, playing in various bands or just casually with like-minded folks, that the music took over, and it was as if we were mere vessels, that the music was playing us, rather than us playing it. It was so much greater and larger than the sum of our collective instruments. The feelings such experiences provoked are difficult to describe. And perhaps this is because music is older than language.

Listening to music can be often nearly and sometimes equally as transcendent as playing it. I can recall certain shows, listening in the shadows as chills traveled through me, the hairs on my arms and neck standing up. Music has so much power, and it is so tied to emotion. In my head lies a map of my life with all the music I know plotted out upon it. Songs conjure people and places, melodies represent events, and in an instant I am transported somewhere else, to the epicenter of the song’s significance to me. Once there I can study its connections to my present life.

Leutwyler notes in her article that music, like scent, also travels to the limbic system, the part of our brain that is, evolutionarily speaking, one of the most ancient. It’s a part that we share with many other creatures, including whales and birds. Leutwyler cites Patricia Gray, head of the Biomusic program at the National Academy of the Sciences, who states in a paper written with colleagues, “When birds compose songs they often use the same rhythmic variations, pitch relationships, permutations and combinations of notes as human composers.” This is one likely reason why we find bird songs to be so appealing. It’s as if all of us creatures on earth, not just humans, are connected through music, making it truly more universal than words. As Dan Higgs sings in “Creation Story”:

but the music pervades
it was music that gave the shove
and resolved in music
we shall breathe

We can use music in many ways. On the simplest level it can elevate mood (or foster wallowing in it, depending on your inclination). My taste in music, like my taste in beer, changes with the seasons. In winter, it’s heavy and dark on both accounts. The transitional seasons, spring and fall, engender tunes and ales teetering on the cusp of light and dark, cool and warm. Take The Smiths, for example. While I consider them a band for all seasons, certain songs and even certain albums fit better on bleak winter days, while others suit the sweet breezes of an early June morning. And this is where it gets more technical. The mental map unfurls and soon I am poring over it, pinpointing exactly why that Ride song makes me think of my old college roommate. Or why that Pixies song wakens memories of a girl in church I burned for in that torturous way shy teenage boys have of burning.  If you want, you can plunge deeper, to the charred terrain on the map, and really begin to excavate. You may get lost, and feel real pain, but there is much to learn in that territory.

At any given moment in our lives, the health of our mental state depends so much on whether we are happy or not. Happiness can be elusive (as can its definition) and doesn’t often linger long, but discovering our individual keys to unlock this state of mind (whatever you want to call it) is crucial to our survival. We need to learn what is good for us and we need to remember it in times of crisis, be it minor or major. In my own experience, I’ve found that writing through trauma can hasten the healing process. But sometimes the words dry up, or their bandages only cover so much of the wound. At those times, I seek out the scents and sounds I know will bring relief. And if I’m really lucky, they will irrigate the mental fields enough for words to grow again.

institutionalized

Due to cat needing vet visits, I spent two days working from home, driving Em El down south for work and picking her up in the evening.  I haven’t commuted by car in years, so it was quite a shock to my system.  Blood pressure rises, teeth gritted, eyes glaze over as you follow the same route over and over.  I’m used to seeing the stupid things drivers pull as I ride my bike, but it’s totally different when you’re driving.  It actually bothers me more, probably because I’m already extremely agitated just from the mere fact of being behind the wheel.  Anyway, it got me thinking about people who commute the same route for years on end.  Every day, a vacant thousand-yard stare fixed on the traffic lights ahead.  The rote of it all would kill me in a matter of months.

So after the storms pass, and the dishes are drying in the rack, I step out into the cool air.  That old cottonwood out back sings its timeless song with nothing more than leaves in the wind and I am so thirsty to hear it.  I want to go to sleep listening to nothing but that.  It takes me back to, of all places, Lucy Park and the hidden trails I found that one day, winding alongside the chocolate brown river.  After a deep and full night of cottonwood sleep I want to wake up to the high fluted serenades of the thrushes.  I want to turn my head to the window and breathe in the meadow breeze as it fills the room.  I am so hungry for what feeds me.  So desperate in this urban confusion.  I keep fitting one leghold trap after another onto these withered limbs.

I can’t stop hearing Bill Callahan sing, “My ideals have got me on the run…towards my connection with everyone.  My ideals have got me on the run…it’s my connection to everyone.”

I don’t even know anymore what my ideals are, if I even ever had a clear idea.  I’m so shifty and drifty, I’m barely able to pin myself down most days.  And I’m certainly not running anymore.  Treading murky water, perhaps.  As for my connections, they are few and far between.  Far in miles and farther yet in states of mind.

I don’t want to become institutionalized.  I really don’t.  I know that much. Maybe that’s an ideal?  It’s something I’ll keep fighting against as long as I have the strength, even if it’s with my last few ounces.

minutiae

I wrote a post last night but it was way too introspective to publicize on here.  Seeing as much of what I write here is probably way too introspective, it must have been pretty bad, huh?  Yes, yes it was.  So what has been going on?  Well, I went away for a few days to the beach.  Did some birding over there, but nothing extraordinary.  The mist on Saturday morning worked against us.  Birds were present but it was too foggy to see many of them.  Next day was clear, but birds were on the inaccessible side of the pond, and we had no scope. That’s on the list to get.  On Sunday, I saw my first of year Barn Swallow, flying over the ocean of all places.  Best shot of the trip was probably that of an osprey perched in a tree limb leaning out over a pond, clutching a dead fish in its talon. It was a majestic sight, and in my opinion much more impressive than, say, a Bald Eagle holding some scrap it just stole from a Turkey Vulture.  Many Pine Warblers were present in the pines (natch) but it was still early for most passerine migrants. A few other warblers are being reported elsewhere in Maryland (Louisiana Waterthrush, Palm, Yellow).  In a few weeks things will be in full swing!

We planted the garden last week.  The mesclun mix came up yesterday, but nothing else has poked through yet.  The sprawling multiflora rose (aka “rambling rose”) has been targeted for removal due to its invasive nature.  I hope to replace it with a native shrub, probably one with berries that birds like to eat.

It’s taking me three days to write this entry…

Updates: some radishes and lettuce up now in the garden.  I put out the hummingbird feeder this morning.  Crabapple tree out back is in full flower (white), and the cherry tree out front has shed all of its flowers…pink petals now scatter the yard.  Weather has been in the low 90s (!) past couple of days.  Not good for sleeping.

At work, I sneak away for a few minutes in the afternoon and listen to the house finches sing as I walk around the harbor. One of them has staked out his territory on the Coast Guard vessel and sings his heart out from the very top of the ship each day.  This is all I can do to maintain a few tendrils of sanity.

Another cyclist was killed by a car, this time in the county on a road I’ve ridden often.  The usual “road rights” argument rages as a family grieves another senseless death.

I am weary, and my dreams, when I remember them, horrify me.

furthest

I’ve made it to the end of another of my work weeks.  There’s something that seems not quite right about this drive to “make it through another week.” Shouldn’t we be treating every day as an amazing gift, not something to slog our way to the end of?  People say, oh, if I can just make it to Friday.  Yeah, well, you made it…so what are you going to do now?  Get drunk for the next two days?  Try to forget your crappy job and live your “real” life for a brief moment?  What a sick system we’ve built for ourselves here.  I generally try to spend Fridays in the woods, away from people, but the blizzards and general crappy weather have hampered that often in recent weeks.  I guess you could say I’m ready for Spring. 

Back when we had our work retreat, during one meal I was eating at the same table as our facilitator.  Someone commented on how this one guy had hardly been seen at all outside of the work sessions.  Well, the facilitator said, some people are introverts and it’s hard for them…they need to be by themselves and recharge.  She said that actually she herself was an introvert, and, in fact, that she would probably opt out of the scheduled “social time” after dinner that night (so she could recharge, I suppose).  [I wrote more about this night in an earlier entry].  Anyone who knows me is, I’m sure, well aware of my introverted status.  Sometimes I feel like I never recharge, though.  I often can’t spend enough time by myself.  But other times it feels unhealthy, and I get to the point of craving companionship.  I spend so much time alone that I can drive myself to the breaking point, where I just generally feel crazy and by then it’s too late to be around people because I would just feel and act too weird.  I often find it much easier to connect to sounds, smells, and textures, than to carry on a conversation with a person.  Music is an important interface for me to explore emotions and just generally function in the world.  And clearly nature is integral to my life.  Even though technology surrounds me and I use it every day, I would always choose the natural world over the manufactured world.  Every single time.  So…that’s where I’m at right now, here nearing the end of this week.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.  I’m supposed to go look at the stars tomorrow night.  Peering out into the night sky at those celestial bodies so far away.  It sounds pretty perfect, actually, and the forecast looks mostly clear.

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