abuse, Addiction, Anorexia, Archetypes, Bulimia, character study, Christmas, Colorado, Death, depression, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Health Issues, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, Relationships, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Yoga

softening of the sap

I’m going to make up some of the piece for effect.  Sometimes, the metaphor unfolds from the writing but this one I’ve sort of planned out.  I use symbols and images to feel more real–to create something I can’t just vent over the phone while staring at refrigerated biscuits in the store after work.  Symbols and images creating the here-but-away glazed effect of the internet where one’s soul is felt in tiny comment bubbles but the vulnerability of immediate physical proximately can be easily avoided.  Instead of what I could say easily in person (and no one likes raw truths in person) I say elaborately through words, details, pictures, creations that ebb in and out of my control.  In these spaces I feel safe. In these spaces I am in the moment. There is one heartbeat, there is another—no need to coregulate.

_______

My dog once got tree sap on the tuft of fur located on his back, towards the tail.  That spot where dogs love to be scratched and will saunter underneath two blue jean tree trunks to feel the finger-branches of their owners.  One paw up, another paw up, tongue dangling from mouth, breath heaving.  A rhythmic ritual caught short on this day as the sticky, nostalgic smelling sap wraps around my fingers with black wires of fur and deformed pine needles.  I examine the spot now a cow lick of small chunks of tree bark, shiny in the light of the kitchen.  I thought about the hike where this had happened and how hikes sometimes start to look the same not because of being jaded or well-adventured but because the breath remains the same.  The steps, just like the dogs, back and forth in rhythm and ritual.  But the sap—this sap.  It was stuck.  It was hard.  It was amassed in a dark forest, off a path, a break in the flow.

I got stuck about 3 years ago.  There were moments when the sap would loosen, when I could start to work on the problem, but then in the dark forest I would find more resin.  I would stop looking up and become so focused on one thing that my back too became sap covered.  Tree-glue painful to pick off my own skin and oozing from trees in suspension, like a still shot of puss from a wound.  I had career hopped then which always come with a new creation of meaning, a way to make sense of purpose out of current circumstances.  With each move from mountain town to mountain town I would lose confidence, I would become painfully aware of my own personality—able to be friendly one moment, withdrawn the next.  The sap would harden and crystallize.  I felt frozen.  I felt trapped.  I felt suffocated.  There was one winter when we cut down Christmas trees and I found one for my own home.  I hosted a Christmas party.  The sap was soft then, the heat of friendship had loosened the sap.

Our neighbors gave us a Christmas tree this year and it looks much like the one I had cut down a few years ago.  I took it down yesterday and put it in my truck and a little fish thought swam through my head—I’ve already been here.  I’ve done this.  I’ve cut a small tree and let it dry up and scratch around in the jumper cables and bottles of oil in the dark belly of the truck topper.  I wondered how long the tree would stay this time and remembered a few years ago riding in the back after dumping the tree, noticing yellow pine needles feeling them stick in my legs as I smiled and watched the boy I had a crush on.  Softening of the sap.  Like teenagers that day in our laughter and I wonder when I will tear down dirt roads again in my truck hardly noticing sap as I chase waterfalls and peaks.  This Christmas brought its own patch of sap—a new problem that brought old problems, a folding of time in which I felt smashed in the middle.

Because of time, because of my tendency to never give up—the sap came out of the dogs fur.  We got a hairdryer and the look on the dogs face said I was an evil torturer.  I was ready to ban bacon from his world, outlaw walks, throw all the balls into the sea.  I wonder if I get this same look too when someone is trying to help me through something really painful.    The dog had worked for the clump of sap, I had worked for my pervasive depression and abusive interpersonal relationships.  Don’t take it away so soon.  I live like a preserved mosquito within this resin–I can’t annoy you here.  The dog yelped when the sap finally became soft enough, olive oil was massaged through his fur and lots of pets and kisses followed.  Then a bath.  This time he looked a little more forgiving—he knew now I was helping him.  I feel my heart starting to soften in the soapy warm water, things are melting, the crust of a loaf of bread has been cut into revealing the stretchy puffiness below.  I am moving through, with, and into this depression.  I am moving through, with, and into this light.

 

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” — Madeleine L’Engle

Capitalism, consumerism, Higher Education, individualism, Non-Fiction, Self Reflection, social class

capitalism, consumerism, and individualism

Capitalism is the idea that folks can invest their assets (not just income or monetary assets) into projects and products they feel are worthwhile.  The individual can generate and distribute his or her wealth.  The assets are used with knowledge of self, family, culture.  Lets say a landowner is sitting there and notices a pile of wood on his or her land.  The landowner might decide to trade this wood for milk from the farmer down the road.  They both decide on a fair trade (price) and both are happy to receive the product or project from the other.  There is a human element, and the wood and milk were readily available to each party.

Consumerism is the idea that folks desire to consume and own products for his or her gain or to elevate social status.  These products are not necessarily needed, nor provide long term wealth.  While the products may feel worthwhile they are consumed in excess or sold in excess.  The assets are used to partake in a social structure.  Let’s say that that same landowner saw the wood on his land.  He decides to put the wood in bundles and sell them for $8/cord at the gas station. The same farmer down the road takes his milk and sells it at the same gas station for $5/gallon.  They create labels and intense marketing strategies and the consumer starts to think this has to be the best milk and wood ever–even if they don’t need it or can’t afford it.  They must consume!  Now the value of both products is strictly monetary and sold through a third party who also profits.

Even as I write these examples, it is hard to separate the two ideas.  And the inherent problem or catch in each example is capital.  If I am not a landowner, I have no capital.  If I have no capital, neither system works.  Or both systems work incredibly well to keep those who invest, not necessarily those who consume, in a position of social or inherited power.  I found myself in this predicament during college.  I amassed debt not through the actual education (my entire college career was paid for through tuition scholarships) but through taking out loans to rent a home, eat, buy books, etc.  I did not take out these loans because I was lazy or lived a luxurious lifestyle.  I did so because I had no idea how to engage in economics or investments.  My ability to make sound financial decisions was affected by my lack of capital (resources).  I did not subsequently ignore bills because I was a criminal, or financially inept.  I simply did not have the funds.

Eventually, I earned my graduate degree and now pay bills on time.  Still have a lot of debt.  However, it wasn’t my academic talents or grit that got me out.  I had some help.  I was born into a white (lower) middle class family and was able to ask family members for help at times, although I learned nothing of investments.  I may have some inheritance but in the meantime I’m not a land owner, I know nothing of procuring property.  I’m not a home owner.  I cannot partake in the rentier economy I see benefit so many around me.  And I’m not sure that I would.  I’m not a hater of capitalism or consumerism, necessarily, but I see there may be a different way to do things.  I like capitalism because it encourages me to trade veggies and herbs I grow in my garden for other things I may need.  I get to evaluate my own needs within my own culture and acquire or sell/barter products and projects.  I purchase from local growers and vendors at the farmers market.  I like this.  Its personal, its enriching.  Its easy to demonize capitalism if one is not benefiting.  I’ve found myself in this pickle.  Now I see its more complex.

I think where I most get hung up is our identity connected to work.  The first question most folks will ask is “what do you do?”  Well, I’m a therapist.  But I’m also a gardener.  A runner.  Sometimes a scientist.  I have a wide skill set.  And I also get hung up on the phrase “he will make more money than you ever will.”  Yep, I know.  But that’s not my objective in life.  Yeah I want to buy things I need, live in a nice place, but I don’t need much more.  Of course I could amass wealth for “noble” causes and give away my wealth or I can give away social capital and my time.  All equally valuable to me.  With that, I understand that all folks are not like me and each person knows themselves best.  These are the individualistic principles upon which capitalism was founded.  I don’t want to get away from the unique needs of each individual or his or her decision to buy or consume what is best for his or her needs–independent of me.

I could be considered an expert in a few fields.  Only through the framework of public higher education so this is faulty at best because this is only one modality of knowing.  I can see someone’s situation objectively and perhaps provide some reflection to lead to insight.  But I never will,and never have, known what’s best for someone else.  I can guess at what products or needs folks might have and try to fill these needs through work (paid or unpaid) that I enjoy greatly.  But again, I do not know what is best for another person only being a true expert at being myself.  This form of individualism celebrates the capacity of each person to make their own decisions.  I can decide to not buy a home.  I can decide to find a financial advisor to buy a home.  This becomes tricky territory with the idea that all individuals are valued at the same levels, and that there choices are considered acceptable within the dominant framework.  They may not be.  But that does not take away from the individuals right to choose.

I suppose then, on the fourth of July, I write about American ideals witnessing very viscerally all that could be deemed wrong with our political or public values.  But,  I do believe most folks have the freedom of choice and as we advocate for immigrants we advocate for these folks to choose to come here legally or illegally and that his or her right to profit once in the country are the ideals upon which capitalism was founded.  It’s perhaps America’s own trend toward consumerism that causes us to pay wages that are unfair to continue to create a culture of scarcity.  One can choose to work at a job at a higher or lower wage with or without great benefit or risk.  But these jobs and choices have much more meaning when we are creating things we need, directly selling to one another, creating humanity.  When we find a task that is, as they say, our life’s calling.  And that is capitalizing one’s own inherent worth.

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

-Viktor E. Frankl

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the law of the jungle

I am an intense person.  This has been pointed out to me.  In order to keep my whole person from shattering at the thought of all my faults I reframe these comments to think I’m passionate.  The other day I was on the phone and was trying so hard to explain why I felt a local organic farm was injected with privilege.  I couldn’t get my words out and sounded as if I was starting a war against young white farmers.  The friend helped me tease out my words and she said what was in my heart—“oh you want to make organic farming more accessible!”  YES!  All of my work in the social justice arena comes down to money.  Classism.  Poverty.  Social currency.

When I first came to Colorado, I was living in the San Luis Valley.  These were some great farmers markets.  Garlic, onions, potatoes, even some osha sprinkled into the mix.  When I was younger, I was involved with an apprenticeship in Laramie, WY at Elk Mountain Herbs.  I learned about herbs of the mountain west.  Herbs that grow in between 7,000 and 9,000 feet.  Yarrow, nettle, redroot, Oregon grape root, bedstraw, curlycup gumweed, plantain, black cohosh root, wormwood, elderberry.  I had a kitchen drawer full of dried herbs that I would combine into a daily tea or tonic as its called in the herb world.  Tonics are preventative medicine with tinctures serving for more acute illness.  I stopped at the farmers market in Alamosa, CO to talk a bit to a farmer about osha.  He realized its value and I felt as if I found someone who understood the distinct healing properties of whole plants.

The ranch in Elk Mountain had received a grant from the USDA to grow osha commercially and when I took my apprenticeship I was also in a magazine writing class.  I decided to write about the curative properties of osha, although the story was never published because osha has an endangered distinction due to being over-picked around herbs schools of the southwest.  In simple terms, osha helps regenerate the cilia within lungs.  Its best taken when you feel a cold or respiratory illness coming on.  A tincture can be made, or the roots can be chewed on.   Usually, the herb causes coughing right away and tastes of strong celery.  I interviewed Michael Moore, a very talented herbalist who has since passed, outside Reeds bar one night on the phone.  He talked about how osha was so special in the southwest it could be traded for money, gas, etc.  Since I’ve moved to Pagosa Springs, not quite as many folks know about the value of osha or more likely I’ve not met these folks yet.

During my apprenticeship learning about the medicinal aspects of herbs, we also learned about the magical properties.  Yarrow and dandelion were deemed “desert island” herbs that could be used for many purposes.  We learned catchphrases like “eat them, don’t weed them” or “research causes cancer in rats.”  I think what I liked best about this course is that I felt I was becoming more in charge of my own health.  I was noticing what herbs grew on my hikes around southeast Wyoming and collected nettles taller than my 6 foot frame at Elk Mountain Ranch in Wyoming. This stuff felt accessible and much of what we knew about these herbs was collected from indigenous cultures—American Indians, Latino/a’s.   During the course, a medicine bundle was found in Arizona assumed to be 500 years old containing osha.  Ligusticum porteri.  Strong enough medicine to be worn around the neck in a bundle for healing and good fortune.

What does all this mean for gardening, organic farming, foraging? For me, it meant I could learn to produce or find my own medicine and food.  It meant that I could take a hike and have even more purpose taking and giving from the forest diving into permaculture before I had even heard of the word.  I’ve only recently started growing plants and herbs and wonder why I haven’t tried this before.  But then I stop and remember that I’ve got to meet myself where I am.  The cost of organic gardening is more than just the $100 of seedlings in my garden.  Its learning how to grow, harvest, cook, having the mental energy to prepare a meal.  I’m a straddler of social classes, forever aware of my debt yet forever aware of my privilege.  I know about herbs.  I have space for a garden.  I can buy osha, or I can trade my goods and services.

To me, food justice means empowering folks through knowledge.  And the best part about this knowledge is that it can feed the mind, the body, the spirit.  I’ve sprinkled elderberries around my home for protection, picked yarrow in big open fields, hung bundles of nettle in sheds to dry.  I have cut up my cucumbers and ate them with yellow pungent sprigs of dill.  Growing my garden has rekindled my interest in herbalism.  And now I’m on a project to leverage folks in Pagosa Springs to start talking about how to reclaim our food, reclaim our plants, get out of the isles of the grocery store and into the isles of nature.  I’m just not sure yet how to do this—I’m weary of talking with folks who already have power.  I feel that some of these organic farms run by young privileged kids is another example of cultural appropriation.  But how do I explain this?  How do I both celebrate and challenge what we are doing?  I do what I know and I write a blog that goes in all directions and begin to name what I think helps—knowledge of herbs.  Knowledge of plants.  I can “Robin Hood” this information and start to share what I know, redistribute my social currency.  Food justice can start right here in my heart.

“From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”

Cesar Chavez

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hair like falling rain

When I first moved to Pagosa, I was so curious.  Learning from everyone around me I truly wondered how things worked here.  I’ve always lived in some proximately to American Indian reservations and grew up knowing Blackfoot and Lakota people living near South Dakota.  I looked up information about Pagosa—first the trails, then old newspaper articles, editorial pieces by two gentlemen who maintain their own news sources.  Then, I looked up the word Pagosa itself and thought it was a Spanish word for “yellow pine” as Alamosa was the Spanish word for “little cottonwood.”

I moved here for the trails, for my job, and was able to explore last summer.  I took in the area bounded on the north—the Weminuche Wilderness.  Hiked up to meet the Contintental Divide from Four Mile, then later in fall hiked from Wolf Creek Pass on the divide down to Archuleta Trail to meet up at Big Meadows.  Drove to Platoro near the Colorado-New Mexico border, and spent days in the San Juan Wilderness running from the front porch of a friend’s house.  Haven’t made to Yellow Jacket Pass on the west but I live here now.  There is still time.

I’ve soaked in most commercial and hidden hot springs in the area, barring Rainbow Hot Springs which people will say is a 5 mile hike, but I’ve heard 8.  Yet, I still am a newbie, curious, wondering.  The skies here remind me of Wyoming and the clouds are wonderful right before the afternoon storm of the mountains that I grew accustomed to at 7200 feet in Laramie, WY.  Sometimes, the clouds reach down like fingers pouring rain on mountain meadows in the distance.  Turns out, American Indian (Navajo) men and women have their hair long because it symbolizes the falling rain bringing sustenance and watering plants, herbs, crops.

I started attending town council and remember one meeting where low-income housing was struck down but a $70,000 overlook structure was approved near the bridge at the center of town.  Perfect for the tourists to stand under jutting over the San Juan River and The Springs—the largest resort in town with over 25 pools.  Nice move for tourism, Pagosa.  I was a little upset that there is a slight housing crisis here caused by rentiers and lack of funds for subsidized housing but yesterday heard a bit more of the story.  Many of the lands are owned or homesteaded by Spanish and American Indian people  To develop some lands or put in easements for trails would displace peoples who have been displaced so many times.  I am still learning.

There’s many story on the websites highlighting Pagosa but it seems that only the Anglo (French, English) stories are told bringing the forefront stories of mountain men highlighting the tales of the military expeditions and beaver trapping.  I heard these same stories in Wyoming fourth grade social studies, gnawing on pemmican probably watching “Dances With Wolves” so we could all feel good about the interactions between pale face (white people) and American Indians.  There are two main tribes in the area—Navajo and Southern Ute.  I found a story about the warring between the two tribes.  The story that goes into museums dotting the main highway 160 and highlights the towns cash cow—hot springs.

This is the story that they want you to hear:

There’s a tale of a fight to the death between the Utes and the Navajo to determine the ownership of the springs. Confrontation had marked these two tribes relationship for many years. Both recognized the San Juan River as a dividing line between their nations, but the springs was still a source of contention.

They decided each tribe would select one man to represent each side. The dispute would be settled by whoever emerged victorious, and the winner would win the possession of the Great Pagosa Hot Spring.

The Navajos selected a huge man who was famous for his fighting ability. Colonel Albert Pfeiffer volunteered to fight for the Utes. He was an Indian agent, and a friend of Col. Kit Carson, as well as an enemy of the Navajo and an adopted member of the Utes (having married into the tribe). His one request was that he could elect the weapons they would use, and he were chose Bowie knives.

They met unclothed, except for their breechcloths, and fought with one hand tied behind their backs. The Indian had the advantage in size, and the Colonel knew it. Suddenly, however, when the Colonel was some feet from his adversary, he made a very quick movement with his arm, his knife left his hand and was buried in the enemy’s heart.  The Utes were victorious, the Navajo withdrew, and never more did they lay claim to the “Great Pahgosa.”

But, there’s another story.

The war was not occurring so much between the Southern Utes and Navajo but the Navajo and white settlers.  The Utes and Navajo were ancient enemies, from what I’ve heard, but I can’t find much information on the internet other than the story above.  According the Southern Ute tribe website, the Ute people are the oldest residents of Colorado, inhabiting the mountains and vast areas of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Eastern Nevada, Northern New Mexico and Arizona.  According to tribal history handed down from generation to generation, the people lived here since the beginning of time.

Navajo is pronounced “NAH-vuh-ho.” This spelling came from Spanish– you can sometimes see the same name spelled “Navaho” instead. It comes from a Pueblo Indian word for “planted fields” or “farmlands.”  Think about the clouds and the long hair—these were people who cultivated crops in a place not known for the best growing season. The Pueblo Indians probably gave them this name because unlike their relatives the Apaches, the Navajos were farmers who lived in settled villages. Traditionally the Navajos called themselves Dine’é or just Diné (which means “the people”), but today most Navajo people also use the word “Navajo” themselves, especially when they are speaking English.

From the stories I heard, the Navajo were here long ago, and Pagosa does not mean healing or boiling waters but rather comes from the Navajo word “Pagosah” (although other accounts say it’s a Southern Ute word—depends on who you talk to) which means stinky waters.  The Navajo considered these lands sacred and white settlers kinda liked it, too.  The account I’ve heard is not that each tribe sent a representative but rather the military men transplanted the Southern Ute here, knowing full well they were considered an enemy of the Navajo.  Make it easier on the American government by letting them kill each other off.  Cultural warfare.  Scorched earth on sacred land.

Folks seem to believe that white supremacy is a modern day myth and racist ideology of hatred promoted by marginal extremist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nations. Often overlooked and neglected in this view are the structural inequalities that ensure the continued supremacy of whites over non-whites in all facets of social life.  Like putting two warring tribes in the same place.  Only advertising the stories that bring more white folks from the south to enjoy the land and dump dollars in a community that does have its issues with poverty.

I still stare at the clouds every day from my back porch thinking about hair like rain.  I haven’t cut my hair in years and now I will look at town council a bit differently.  Seek out the old families of color who have been here forever to hear the stories, to protect traditions that aren’t necessarily mine, but that I still hold in my heart and I learn about my new home.  This year I’m trying to grow a garden like I’ve grown my hair using the rain that forms over the San Juan mountains and recollect the adage that folks come to Pagosa to “heal, hide, or take a hike.”  I’m here to heal.  I’m here to learn.  I’m here to be.

“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”

― Brian Jacques, Taggerung

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with or without wings

I fly in my dreams over brown fields spotted with blue lakes and grey rivers that become synapses of the brain. Trees in the wind standing strong and bushes firing up green chemicals changing to spiders send the message through the amygdala.  Emotional response.  Right brain feathers plume up in terror to make the edges of my mind just a little bigger to outsmart disassociation.  I fly at the words “negative bitch” and feel my hamstrings and quadriceps curl up like burning newspaper and unfold from my body peeling away from sturdy, strong, like-a-lamppost femur bone.   The air becomes thin and I become the air, dirt and old leaves spin around in my chest cavity as ribs crack apart from strong breath and lament.  Flapping, panicked, wings emerge from my hunched shoulder bones worn like a sweater to protect my heart from the cold of the altitude from being so high, so high up.

Taking off.  Ascending.  Soaring.

May I never learned to fly.  But I have learned how to get so, so high up, body numb, head warm and light as my grey brain turns to dryer lint fuzzy and floating in the wind.  Puffs of lint coil into slow moving sliding snakes twirling and busting out into tiny fires bringing me back to the coal mines of Wyoming where tiny piles of coal spontaneously combust like my lint-brain.  Smoking piles morph into the breath of a dragon swinging his spiky tail to take out tiny cottages of the heartspace dotting the safe space of my soul.  Maybe the dragon never learned to fly.

Back to a hospital room at age four getting yet another asthma treatment feeling my head float like hair ready to meet the lightning strike seen in the high valleys and plains of an early evening thunderstorm.  I fly right before sleep when I psychoanalyze my clients and my own life scared of my own narcissism jealous of the bird that flies high with no regard or thought of consequence about who might be flying lower.  Tearing down a county road on my heavy mountain bike at thirty miles per hour—fast to me—and wings spread wide, shoulders open up, chest pounding strong but no cracks no mistakes in these headwinds.  Rattling of the back tire keeps me on the ground thinking about that five hour flight to Alaska all the way up on the promise of the inside passage and Alaskan highway.

What goes up must come down, down, down, before ever clawing its way back to dry land through the dark caves and rivers of primordial times.  Down the dark veins of the jungle-river, deep in the dark sea journey of the psyche.  Heart trapped inside the hard, brittle shell—the womb of growth where I will grow a beak to tap, tap at my surroundings.  Tap, tap, woosh, woosh.  Feathers covered in mucus and the snot of life lubricating the tiny feathers.  Little strands of bird-hair poking out from meaty thighs wondering if I’ll be a bird of primary color or mixed yellow-green to blue growing my ideas of existence out of pink-white, unfinished skin.  I didn’t know I could crack open and escape this place.

Out in space and I’m not alone.  I don’t know if I flew here or if I went through the portal of the bedroom again and this is the revelation of flying—I am here with the bones of my past and the thoughts of my future.  In dark space always looking for the v-shape of the river, the v-shape of birds as they fly above knowing exactly where to go using intuition and tiny feathers like stabilizer muscles holding up the larger muscle groups that never fatigue in flying.  This migration is hundreds of miles and I’ve already come thousands.  I run faster and faster down the mountain and feel legs kick and heels strike as I start to move faster not worried about falling, not worried if I catch up, not worried if I win.  I am flying.

Maybe I never learned how to come down.  Learning to fly young flopping off safe branches of tiny trees, losing a feather that takes its time swinging back and forth landing on the ground to be blown and blown to somewhere—not here.  High up in the whispy clouds of undecorated thoughts where I wonder if anyone can see me.  A dot in the sky, a shadow on trees and buttes, a screech in the wind.  Heard at dusk and dawn and screeching sometimes piercing into early afternoon in the middle of a nap.  Even when unheard, the song goes on.

 

“The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we do [with great artists]; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star. ”

― Marcel Proust, The Prisoner [and] The Fugitive : In search of lost time, vol. 5

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mom is wow spelled upside down

mom is wow spelled upside down

Cat midnight,
and you slink
down
the stairs.

I’m up this late and you are up this late
For reasons that have no desire to be
Reconciled.

Purple pill
ending its life in your stomach
Or at least I imagine
Its purple.

You always hide
your shame
so well. Maybe
a gel cap, but probably  like a
small moon, a lunar eclipse
in your stomach.

I hear you
using one cigarette to light
another
Pushing them between a dopey smile
that you have forged
Like you somtimes forge
your affection
for me.

You went to New Orleans
I think that makes me jealous
Of a popcorn yellow
station wagon, driving far far
to the hot safe space
of French quarters and bright
red lobster claws.

Home shopping network.

Buy your mental health.

Rum and coke.

Watching fireworks
hearing the clink of ice
in your glass filled with brown.

I think of the morning when the shadow
people
are no more.
I watch the blender vomit
mango, yogurt, banana, peach
Into the purple-white pills
Inside your warm tummy.

Disheveled, slurred words.
Comfort
in my addiction and
yours.

You stay awake in pill-haze
and I stay awake in speed-frenzy.
My arm itches.
I should know not to use
a dull needle.
You should know not
to take the moon on an
empty stomach.

Long orange cigarette ashes
fall in pieces and flit
in my eyes that are
huge as plates.
Flashing lighter, alchemy
in the spoon.

We have not gone to bed.

I stay awake and listen
for what you think are
gentle footstpes.

And if you want me to think they are
quiet.

I will.

5/6/2004 revised 4/8/2017

Archetypes, character study, Death, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Faith, Family, Fear, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, PTSD, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Universiality, Wyoming, Yoga

a letter everyday

I didn’t save the letters, but Grandpa sent us a letter every day for years.  Different topics, different pens, different paper, but always the same strangeness. Sometimes I would barely read them.  They came so often and just as often I could not understand them.  I would write a obligatory letter of small talk here and there.  The thoughts of letters I box up and add to the pile of subjects and folks in my family that give me unbearable guilt.

The letters were a bit like Grandpa as he began to age. Often incoherent. Full of receipts from the Co-Op in Burns, Wyoming where Grandpa had lived since he was a little boy.  The family homesteaded there and bought up 146,000 acres of land while running a cattle company.  Wyoming roots.  In the roots of the Wyoming tree were also roots of the eccentric side I recognize all through branches manifesting in my own mannerisms.

Grandpa had his own workshop down in the basement of the huge house my sister is still convinced is haunted.  The new tenants that are renting are convinced of this too.  Perhaps a little of the madness of my Gpa has stayed there lingering in fumes of paint and metal.  I never felt the ghosts my sister claims, but I was eccentric like Gpa.  A quiet connection I found in his pillow when I realized it contained the same smell as mine.

Sometimes the letters contained dead bugs.  A spider smashed by the manual typewriter.  A dead bee scotch taped to a yellow paper of a legal pad.  Brown juice of flies in corners of cartoons he would draw shakey and small protruding from the margins. The cartoons always of someone running or the laughable folly of a heavy object falling.  Gpa and myself not aware of any falling, falling, although others might see the eccentric slip as a painful one.

My uncle commented perhaps his eccentricity compromised his career and that may be the case for us all but instead my Uncle meditates everyday, I blog everyday, Grandpa wrote a letter everyday, my sister parents everyday.  Sanity and strangeness just perceptions, socially coded, dynamic, changing, different everyday.

In Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangenesspsychiatrist David Weeks explains that eccentrics are physically healthier and significantly happier than “normal” people. He notes that eccentrics are wildly diverse yet share common characteristics. Here are his 25 descriptors of eccentricity, listed in descending order of importance. (Dr. Weeks says the first five are the most significant characteristics.)

  • Enduring non-conformity
  • Creativity
  • Strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity and related exploratory behavior
  • An enduring and distinct feeling of differentness from others
  • Idealism
  • Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six)
  • Intelligent, in the upper fifteen per cent of the population on tests of intelligence
  • Opinionated and outspoken, convinced of being right and that the rest of the of the world is out of step with them
  • Non-competitive
  • Not necessarily in need of reassurance or reinforcement from the rest of society
  • Unusual eating habits and living arrangements
  • Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except perhaps in order to persuade them to their contrary point of view
  • Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit
  • More frequently an eldest or an only child
  • Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories, usually a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. (It should be noted that the family history method of estimating hereditary similarities and resemblances usually provides rather conservative estimates.)
  • Eccentrics prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings. There is a frequent use of the psychological defense mechanisms of rationalization and intellectualization.
  • Slightly abrasive
  • Midlife changes in career or lifestyle
  • Feelings of “invisibility” which means that they believe other people did not seem to hear them or see them, or take their ideas seriously
  • Feel that others can only take them in small doses
  • Feel that others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. In some cases, this is well-founded.
  • Dislike small talk or other apparently inconsequential conversation
  • A degree of social awkwardness
  • More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced
  • A poor speller, in relation to their above average general intellectual functioning

Eccentric doesn’t bother me. ‘Eccentric’ being a poetic interpretation of a mathematical term meaning something that doesn’t follow the lines – that’s okay.”

-Crispin Glover

Archetypes, Asana, Body Image, character study, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Health Issues, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Trains, Universiality, Wyoming

greenbelt lunch

Driving, showering, running. Epiphany times.  I think sometimes the blog I have created paints a picture that is not necessarily accurate.  I don’t feel my life is tragic.  I don’t regret anything I have done.  Do I question myself and pray to gawd e’r day to send me a friend? Well, heck yes.  But there is so much to admire in this world.  Things to take in, then let go, and prepare for death and the next transient experience.  These are the things I believe.  These are the things I feel.  Things are the things I want to be with.

I’ve started running five miles at lunch, sometimes it’s timed, but mostly it’s to take in these windy Wyoming high plains I have called home for 13 years.   I run from my house to cross the train bridge downtown to get to the green belt. On the west end there is a little garden area that is watered by the same woman every day.  She wears a floppy hat and khaki pants and we are like two hands of a clock passing each other at different tempos.  She a pendulum, I a metronome beating to the glorious rhythm of life.  Her hose sprays from patches of grass to hollyhocks as she takes care of this tiny pseudo-garden juxtaposed by trains and a tall cigar shaped Union Pacific landmark that would be too much trouble to take down.  She has surrounded three sunflowers with a small enclosure and each living thing has become its own landscape its own piece of art.  We never talk but I appreciate her so much for what she does and how she takes care of a corner of the world that I have come to love.

As I continue my run along the dark gray paved green belt I’ve started to see another wonderful woman whose beauty strikes me.  She has a curious gait and bends her elbows at ninety degrees swinging back and forth like the tin man yet so fluid she floats.  Animated yet subtle.  A wonderful paradox, a metaphor for running, for life.  She is so beautiful and smiles at me every day and I wave and smile back under my salt and sweat soaked ball cap.  I think as I reflect and remember she is some kind of temporary angel whose human beauty matches the beauty of the land.  Her smile becomes like golden leaves in fall and her eyes reveal the blue that is lost in the green gray of the Laramie River.  I want to see myself as I see this woman and how she takes care of that corner of myself that I will come to love.

The locusts are everywhere in August and September and they flutter and hop and greet me while I wonder how much frost it will take for them to become dormant and spawn again.  I occasionally mistake them for butterflies and who is to say they can’t be butterflies with short spurts of flight zipping across the path yellow, cream, gold, black, brown.  I mistook a frog for a locust friend the other day as he sat with his nature-green-paisley back to me and I wondered why this locust wasn’t zipping and then he hopped like a tiny surprise, an expected yet anticipated phone call.  Just a bit up the path there is a grove of trees like an inviting painted alley welcoming whistling, trotting, and other hidden street activities.

And then there are those things not as conventionally beautiful—the freezer company across the field, the row of billboards to the east, the college apartments around the bend.  The river goes down and down in the dry August days and in parts it has become filled with bacteria and algae and I look over a bridge and spit into the water thinking how I would never bathe there.  Its color a light stony green like the eyes of a ex-lover when he was stoned.  But it is the home of other living things that need that space to live.  I stop under the bridge too and see the “lover” graffiti that I see all over town—it’s not elaborate and I create a picture of an annoying seventeen year old in my head who things lovers are worth using graffiti tags.  While all isn’t pleasant it’s all there to observe, to witness, and then to let go.  And when I smell the whiff of a cigarette from a loud truck I remember it is often those things that are the hardest to love that we need to come love.

“Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you.”

-Deepak Chopra