When they get you, they really get you

writing

Though I have many easy enough days volunteering at the shelter, there are hard ones as well.

Luckily for me, I am not the kind of person who greatly loves all dogs. I feel deep compassion for all of them, but otherwise I am almost as dog selective as I am people selective. Furthermore in an effort to steel myself against attachments I do my best not to get to know the animals. I have to remain stoic in order to be able to help them, the alternative would be completely falling apart. I fully expect that at some point in my life I will crack and dabble in animal hoarding, there will be an intervention of some kind, it’ll probably make it onto the news. Local woman on the run from authorities with her 100+ dogs in tow, armed with biscuits and not at all dangerous. Anyways….

During my volunteer hours I usually concentrate on getting out as many dogs as possible, I am all about efficiency. Once in a while though, it can’t be helped, I get caught inside a quiet moment in the shade of a tree with an animal who puts its head in my lap as if it belongs there, as if we are the oldest of friends. 

  He lays there quietly, listening to the earth like he speaks her language. He stares up at the sky, takes deep breaths of the grass, he is young, but he won’t waste his energy on spastic antics, no, he wants to take the world in best he can, while he can, he knows he might not be long for it. He leans into my hands, but does not coax their movement, my fingers press gently into his coat. He seems calm, but his heart is beating fast, I think from joy. I have to bring him back to his cage. Eyes close then open slowly to look at mine, then close again. By the next time he opens his eyes I am completely wrecked. That dog destroyed me for the duration of this entire day. I cried over him, I cried after him, I cried during dinner and I am crying now, as I write.

Update **** He’ll never be alone again. FullSizeRender copy 5

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On writing blocks and killing mice

writing

I am having a hard time writing and by that I mean I am not doing it at all. I don’t want to join the ranks of those miserably irritating writer/blogger types who wine incessantly about their writing blocks, but ugghh if it’s not a block it’s a definite jam and it is sorely felt. The issue is that I really don’t want to write about nothing, so I am looking for something to sink my teeth into. Prattling on about the daily minutia of life is just not doing the trick right now . I am still mostly entertaining thoughts about nothing, i.e. Kim K’s butt, Kim K’s front, fat people eating Mcdonalds, Iphone vs. Droid, a virtual celebrity death camp app that I would like to develop, how I want to name all my future children “Todd” etc. etc…..Yesterday I did spend the better part of an hour thinking about the holidays and what they mean to people, especially those people who are without people; a short but meaningful inner monologue took place in the adult corner of my mind about relationships and how sad it is that so many seem to fall apart over just sex. That last one I might be able to develop into a sufficiently scandalous and substantive write up, but I am not holding my breath. In the end nothing cohesive materialized, brain chatter subsided and settled all dew like at the floor of my cranium. Can’t drink dew.

I am trying now to start writing again with a mind to stumbling onto something that is more than nothing and perhaps actually worthy of a few semi thought out sentences and their readers.

So, the other day I somewhat accidentally killed a mouse, my subsequent efforts to revive it proved in the end to be utterly futile and perhaps more harmful than not. I think I may have inadvertently prolonged its suffering and exasperated my own distress. Mice are the scourge of barns and tack rooms everywhere, and despite my best efforts to recognize all animals as innocent and deserving of life, I am prejudiced against them in the context of stables. As a barn person, I find it hard to see mice as anything more than galling, scurrying, pooping, manducating machines, undeterred by doors, walls or threats of violence and imminent death. My favorite sweater for example, that I still wear but only at home, had suffered complete disfigurement for their indiscriminate chewing, after I haphazardly left it on top of my tack trunk for a single night. Much of my tack, including pricy leathers and bridles had fallen prey to the insatiable appetites of mice invaders any time it was not properly stored or hung up. And actual feed? Forget about it, forget you know its name. Purina? Bran? Gold Standard? They will chew through every bag, every box and tunnel past most other containments, which wouldn’t really be that big of a deal, were they able to control their bowel movements. In case you didn’t know, they are not. They defecate it seems while eating, walking, sleeping and, I imagine, plotting. Mice are in this way just like babies… but don’t start me on babies. There is always mouse poo to be found ON my saddle, but this is only just gross and it merely vexes my delicate sensibilities. The poop they leave in the feed is a whole other issue, it renders the feed contaminated and often beyond use, it’s a real problem. Anyways, you can imagine how my relationship with barn mice is at best strained and certainly fraught with enmity, still my commitment to nonviolence means that I would never intentionally harm them or seek to displace them.

Long story made shorter, I found two mice in a bucket of feed, one jumped out and ran away the other ran in frantic circles around the inside rim of the bin, I deduced that he would jump out later, and if not, well I figured it wasn’t my problem and left him. When I returned 3 days later I found him still in there, he was apparently unable to find his way out like his buddy, maybe he was younger or white and unable to jump. For lack of water and excess of food he was in a terrible state, barely able to open his eyes or move. My heart sank, I did this and there he was such a pitiful thing, clinging to life. “God” only knows what he had gone through over the past few days. I imagined his dehydrated suffering, perhaps his fear, the dwindling of his hopes, and, honestly, became deeply sad. I don’t mean to dramatize. I realize that he was only a mouse, who was more likely to fall prey to a mouse trap or a barn cat than to live out his days into old age and retirement, but this seemed like the worst kind end for any living thing.I scrambled to get him out, scooping him up into a bowl, put a little water over his body then sat him down on a damp towel with his face resting on a little dish of water I fashioned out of an orange juice cap. I then put a tiny mountain of very wet feed right next to his face and covered him partially with a piece of cloth, hoping that he might feel more secure for it. When I came back in a few hours he had moved a little and was sitting a few feet away from where I left him. I was hopeful as his eyes were now half way open. I put him back into the safe zone with the water and the food and left for the day. The next day he wasn’t there. I thought, in my foolish optimism, that he had recovered and found the strength to rejoin his brethren, but a barn hand informed me that he had found him dead under a chair earlier that morning. My futile efforts to revive him probably only caused him more suffering and fear. There is something oppressive to any pointless loss of life. It’s like when you catch a glance of road kill or those skulls and bones in old paintings-the memento mori’, small but jarring reminders of how fine the threshold is between being and not being, how all things that are living must get dead. Life is always just a visitor who brings a gift, a gift which turns to dust when she takes her leave. I was there when he was so alive with a future ahead of him; there were many a bridles he could have laid tooth to, much feed to waste, maybe even baby mice to produce with Missis Mouse. I could have helped him out of that bin and spared him the suffering and the dying, but, for no particular reason, I just didn’t. 😦 I think the fact that I didn’t intend to kill him, but kind of did, is what’s actually upsetting here. I had never killed anything before via inaction, and I can tell you that it’s the worst and with an after taste of evil. Baring responsibility for that outcome without the preceding conviction or intent makes for an unexpected burden, miserable and surprisingly abject. Poor mouse.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Part 1: On lonely girls and broken hearts

writing

This is not a story about romance or young love, although in a way it is a story about a kind of love at a time when I was young. Recently I read a blog by Erin. J. Bernard, where she described a past romantic dalliance of unique nature, and a brand of rejection usually reserved for the weirder, lonelier segment of humanity; writers, artists and misfits. I found myself reminiscing about a person and a time in my own life which to my mind mimicked her experience. It was not a lasting or, in the grand scheme of things, a terribly significant event, but it was singular and it left an indelible mark on me. Like all of life’s harder lessons it was necessary and dutifully learned.

As I take inventory of my past, I find that, as usual, memory is at best a precarious mechanism, disorganized and not at all trustworthy. I wish I was the journaling type then, as to have at my disposal some authentic reference material, but no such luck. Trying to commit to an honest account of a time long gone is admittedly a bit more difficult, than I originally anticipated. If science is correct in its assertion that all cells in the body, including brain cells, renew themselves completely every 7 years, then I can say that none of what I was then remains in what I am now. Except of course for these scattered memories, but don’t get me wrong,  they are nothing to scoff at. Memories are, to my heathen mind, one and the same as soul. And so, for lack of journals, I guess I will have to prod at my soul.

I was always that weird, introspective kid clutching a book. From the very get go I knew that I understood things differently from others. When I was little I tried to explain certain truths to other five year olds, like the rate of seconds as they tick on the clock, they laughed at me, absolutely rejecting my completely correct take on time. This was just one occasion amongst many to come when I was completely right about something only to be rejected and ridiculed by the ignorant majority or by the uppish adults. I am not and never was by any means a saint, but I knew I was different, in some ways I knew I was better. I understand how it sounds, it’s quite wrong to say and vexing to hear, but I am not afflicted with false modesty. I never experienced jealousy or envy, if someone was more beautiful than me, received more praise, had nicer things, better toys, I was happy for them. To my mother’s relief I did not covet, so she never had to explain to me why I couldn’t have something that was had by someone else. I didn’t lord my advantages, whatever they might have been, over others; I couldn’t understand the pleasure of being boastful or the point of being popular. I couldn’t understand why winning mattered, how putting someone down or leaving someone out could be fun. It baffled me that while I lived comfortably so many others in the world suffered. When I was 8 I wrote a letter to God, who had not yet at this time disproved himself to me. I asked that he take some of my food and clothes to the children in Ethiopia, and packed it all up nicely into a suitcase. My mom was not amused. In short, I wasn’t motivated by the same things that motivated my peers.

The only reason I wasn’t ostracized or actively mocked for my obvious deviation from the norm, was that I was attractive and hailed from marginal privilege. The latter seemed to eclipse all of my more divergent qualifications. It was very clear to me from a very young age that the lottery of good genetics and favorable economic circumstances was responsible for my good standing in the world. Who I was on the inside didn’t much factor in.

I had a hard time connecting with people and subsequently a very hard time making friends. I wasn’t much different from that really weird girl with greasy hair and bad skin, who made everyone uncomfortable. She sat in the back of class, got made fun of, ate lunch alone and was left out of everything. I knew I was more like her than anyone else, yet I was treated differently, I was welcome at most tables, into most groups and at all sleepovers. I was offered regard and consideration, merely because my packaging was more advantageous. I became aware of this unjust truth first when I was 10, and although it undoubtedly made my life easier, it also mostly made me sad. As it followed I didn’t value that acceptance and didn’t try to maintain it. I became a unique kind of outcast. I didn’t fit in with the cool kids, even though I was welcome, because in reality we had nothing in common, but I didn’t fit in the with the weird kids either, because I was externally too well adjusted to share in their experience of the world. 

I am offering this lengthy prologue to explain the precise kind of loneliness with which I was afflicted for the majority of my life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find friends, as in bodies to surround myself with, I just couldn’t find any I wanted to be surrounded by. In high school I spent most lunch periods in the home room, in the company of a book and Miss Ellis, the English teacher. I went to the movies mostly alone but sometimes with my grandmother, who was in fact one of the greatest friends I ever had. I carried out no connections at all from any of my school years. If I went to a high school reunion I wouldn’t know anyone, and I doubt anyone would know me, except maybe for a handful of boys who were, reportedly, sweet on me. I cultivated a few random friendships during college years, these friendships were seldom and short lived, mostly because of me, but not always. Unfortunately, if I was very drawn to someone, then most likely there had to have been something wrong with them, more wrong than there was with me. And I don’t mean something obvious or nefarious, like a hidden tail where there ought not be one or a penchant for squirrel dissection. No. I am talking about subtle inadequacies mostly related to the function or rather dysfunction of their proverbial hearts. Out of those few I can think of only a couple that mattered. One such that mattered is the subject of this narrative, if ever I can stop talking about my lonesome childhood and get to it.

….To Be Continued in Part 2

emotion-pon-crying-cartoon

On Grief

writing

Tears rose up inside me like a panic. Multiplying and overtaking. My chest constricted, as if something got a hold of me and squeezed, hard, nails digging into ribs. I could no longer run, within seconds I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t see and I couldn’t breathe. My heart hurt in every way it could. Sobbing uncontrollably, I folded over in the middle of the sidewalk and leaned on my knees, trying to catch a breath. Tears came pouring out across my downturned face in streams, as if I was made of them, as if they were all there was. And for a moment I let myself drown in my unhappiness. There was nothing left, there was only the pain of losing someone who is as much a part of you, as your limbs, your organs, your skin. Who is in every memory, in every reality, and in none of the future. That was just the first wave of misery that would overtake me in the years to follow. It was neither the heaviest nor the most lasting. That’s the thing about Grief, it is a monster who comes for tea and stays for the cake, then it drops by, whenever, for a pound of flesh. You can run from it, hide from it, but it’s got a lojack on you, it always knows where you are, it watches you while you sleep, it is the price you pay for love.

A few minutes passed with me bent over in the street like a folded chair, then, finally, the thing wrapped tightly around my throat eased its grip, and I could breathe again. Having recovered enough to straighten up, I dragged a sleeve across my wet face. There were plenty of people on the street, walking along like nothing was happening to me. A little girl ran past me waving her arms, her concerned mother trotted twenty feet behind her screaming out cautionary words. When the little girl ran into a band of pigeons they obligingly flew up, then settled down again only a few feet away. Life went on, I thought. Although my world was mangled. Although I felt like there would never be another day without crying or bleeding or searching for air. My world was just one little world amongst billions of worlds, consisting of little girls, concerned mothers, loitering pigeons, and all manner of things, each with its own joys and woes. I straightened myself out and started walking, along with all the other people on the street, trying to weave myself into the fabric of their communal humanity. If I could be absorbed by it along with my pain, then maybe I wouldn’t have to carry it all on my own.

 I did not loose anyone on 9/11, but I have lost someone, grief is as different for everyone as it is the same for all. I hope everyone suffering remembers that they are not alone.