I am in my bed, it is early still, I have brushed my teeth and fed the dog, and The Game of Thrones by George RR Martin is creased and turned pages down by my pillow. I have not eaten dinner, and I am hungry, but I will not eat. I have a headache and I am tired, tired in that way that has my mind questioning everything. It has been a difficult year.
The cardinal is once again chirping loudly at my window. The last time this happened was in the summer four years ago. It was a warning, with only the sound of the kildeer to temper its cries to tell me all would well, but this year it is only the cardinal. I hear the wings of a bird as it hovers near my window. I look and see a flash of grey and muted red. I push myself up to my knees and look out the small window facing north and see a female cardinal on the branch of the sycamore tree.
I prepare to leave your ghost in this house. To pester some other broken heart. The tired has my heart aching again. I yearn for more of something. I brush the cookie crumbs from my soft green sheets. I think the bird must be hungry. I have put out no seeds this spring. I feel stingy, cold, and not tender.
Once again we headed up to the ADK’s, although this trip was planned weeks in advance, last weekend’s brief overnight was far more impromptu. We took the slow route, and when we got to our intended destination it was early afternoon. We ascended up the short but strenuous incline and finally came to what we thought was the summit, but two days later learned it was not at all the summit. The skies were cloudy so we found a good rock to fish from. The pirate caught a couple trout, and I had several bites but couldn’t hook one. Finally I passed him my rod and said, here something is biting please catch it. Which he did, it was a tiny trout, but later I fried it in butter and it was so delicious!! The decent was also a challenge and by the time we got to the end of it, our legs were so wobbley that we started singing “If I Only Had a Brain.” Hot, sweaty, my face scarlet from the exertion (it gets really red whenever I exercise at all). I regretted going for a run before we left the house!! The next day we let our very sore muscles recover from the hike and went for a drive, we found a cool naturally formed stone bridge and cave, and then later on we went to Mt. Defiance overlooking Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain. After dinner we decided to go fishing, and suddenly I was on. I saw the fish surfacing and I had lost my trout lure on a snag, so in the dark I just put on the first packets of hooks I came to. I immediately got a solid hit and pulled in a really big female bullhead chock full of eggs. Then threw in again to the same spot and pulled out another bully. The third time I cast to that spot I caught a decent little trout, which I think was a native, judging by its pink flesh. Of the four of us fishing, I was the only one to pull any in so they called me the queen of the fish. I swear it was the Magic Margarita I was drinking out of a little canteen my friend gave me for “the road”, which we walked down in the dusk and back up again in the dark.
In the morning we decided to fish in Garnet Lake, the pirate caught a perch and I caught a little sunfish, which I threw back in the water. We then went back and picked up my friend and his daughter and went back up Crane Mountain. My legs were absolutely burning and it was really slow going for me, but I finally made it too the top. Our fishing spot was taken up by swimmers, so we went to a different spot suggested by my friend, and discovered that it was an absolutely picturesque spot. The pirate and I fished there on the rocks for a couple hours. It was still early and they were not biting but after a bit I pulled a decent sized brookie in, this one was small and had more of the white flesh of a stocked fish. This morning we cooked up all the fish for breakfast sauteed in butter with a little lemon juice squeezed over it. Delicious. Nothing tastes better than fresh caught fish!!
Our legs and feet are sore. The decline on the second day was hard. Real hard. The pirate had about an 80 pound pack and was taking it slow. My legs hurt so much I was shakey and had to take it slow for safety. I did some of the more difficult rocks on my rear end, dropped my new OFF bug keeper offer, which tumbled down the face of a cliff, shattering as it went. 😦 It worked really well, and I was awfully disappointed to see it going. Close to the bottom I stepped on a small stick and my foot just slid out from under and I fell on my rear end in the leaves. The first thing I did after shower and before food was take a couple minutes to stretch, so I am only a little sore today, mostly in my left quad.
It feels good to be so strong, though it was tough, I did it. I loved fishing, and was thrilled to catch so many. I loved being with my friends, and my pirate. Whose encouragement on the hike helped me get through it. The whole weekend was so fantastic, I cannot believe I spent so many years NOT hiking. What a waste!!! I am so happy to back at it again. My life is so much better with my pirate in it!!
It is a brilliant sunshine weekend, we head off early, and beat out the traffic to the North Country. I love that about my pirate, he is an early riser. We stop in at Old Forge Hardware, and do a little scoping around of campgrounds and hiking trips, we have little planned, but we have the gear to spend the night in the woods.
After many false starts, and many stops we finally decide on a spot. He is always on this even keel, and though it has been a little frustrating he has not grumbled or complained, been nasty, or bitchy in anyway. I ask him, are you getting upset that it has taken us this long to figure out what we are doing? No he says, why would it? I shake my head, is it not too much to explain, I have gone over it and over it, no matter how you slice it, this is what a healthy relationship feels like, of course I have to add a “right?” as this silent dialogue takes place. We set off on our chosen trail and then come across a bridge down and a healthy beaver dam making it impassable. We sit on the bridge and quietly watch the beaver watching us, the slap of his tail startles us. We go up and down either side of the flooded gully, I note tiny trillium and then a lily, I think momentarily is that a stargazer lily? No only one head, and then I see it open, a pink lady slipper, then I realize how many there are scattered here. We walk further down past it and then back up again and in the space of 10 minutes the sun has shone through the dappled green leaves and the delicate flower is there in the sunlight glistening. Gorgeous. In the space of another five minutes the light is gone. Just for that briefest moment, this small patch of sunlight has allowed this one flower amongst all the others on the verge of it, to bloom.
On the other side we find an old rope and as we head back we decide to gather dried wood to make a fire. We lay out the wood on the rope and tie it up and the pirate hoists the bundle on his shoulders. We make our way downhill. After a while he drops it, taking a rest. If you set me up, I say, I will carry it. He lifts the bundle and lays it on my shoulders. It is heavy, perhaps 80 pounds. But I carry it, at the end huffing like I am in labor, determined both by pride and a sense of responsibility to carry it the rest of the way. I may be a girl, but I am not some pampered poodle, I am real, I am strong, I am independent, I am a hard worker.
We have gathered dried bits of birch bark scattered along the trail, and we use it, and some straw to set the fire. I go to put the wood in a structure to start the fire and he says NO STOP! And pulls out a tool that allows him to put magnesium shavings on the fire, and then a small blob of hand sanitizer, with a flint he hits a spark and the fire flares instantly. Wow. The wood is terribly dry, that we have gathered, the low snow pack has made the woods less damp than they should be, I worry about a forest fire this summer.
In the night after we have eaten and stared into the fire, we make the trek again. Up the long hill, our breath a fog in the chill night, the stars fill the sky, there is no light pollution. I am frightened of predators in the dark, I touch him with the tip of my finger resting on his rib cage when we turn out our head lamps, for reassurance. I think on this, on how touch reassures me, and yet how he does not need it, really. I like that confidence, and I think on people who have to constantly be touching you, cuddling, holding hands, sitting close, I contemplate whether or not the meaning is that the person who wants this, needs constant reassurance. Just thinking, and I can see somehow, that this too is a sign of the health of the relationship, of the people in question. When the night is darkest, and I have whispered in the dark that I feel scared, he says, now you know how it is going turkey hunting in the dark by yourself. I wouldn’t like it, I say, but at least down near home you aren’t worried so much about bears and mountain lions. He reassures me in his own way, by admitting his own fear of the dark. I like my strength and independence, but I want to be able to admit my fear, and to have a man to count on when I am like this, fearful in the deep new moon of night.
Late in the night I have to pee, I am freezing and the ground is hard, and my joints ache. I turn to my back and sigh, and he says in the silent night, do you have to pee? Yes I say and I am freezing. I slip on the boots I have left by the door, and nearly naked, and with no fear of being seen I step out to pee in the bushes. I tell him not to look as he does his business too. He of course puts the spotlight on me and laughs as I pee on my shoelaces, which I was sure I had done up loosely before I went to bed so that I would not do that, but somehow they have come untied. I feel confident though, I am naked and peeing here, on my shoelaces, and laughing until it makes it hard to pee. Though his teasing is sometimes rough and gruff, I love it, and I am learning bit by bit to trust in him, without his reassurance.
In the morning, as the eastern sun streams in the head of the tent, we both rise, aching from the hard ground. I go to slip on my boots in daylight and see they are his boots, not mine. I laugh as I tell him whose laces I was peeing on. He curses at me, calls me names, yelling at me, but we are both laughing, later I tease him about it. I am grinning hard as he calls me a name, his eyes sparkle so.
Do you know I tell him as I laze about the site, how many times I have been camping where it wasn’t me doing the cooking? Exactly twice I say, in my adult life and both times with you, I don’t know what to do with myself. The frittata he makes though is delicious, and the dark black camp coffee perfect to fresh the fire dry from my body.
We make the trek up the hill again, and fish in the beaver dam, but all there are is frogs, newts, and snakes, and a whole lot of bugs, but no fishes jumping up to eat them. We give up and walk down to a smaller stream that is choked but full of minnows, we catch a snag and give up, and in short order break down the camp together, not speaking, but helping one another in silence.
I reflect on the water as it flows, for some reason it makes me think of the stars, and the movie the Matrix, and of the grand over-arcing notion I have had for many years of the universe as a metaphor for the human condition, as a metaphor of creation, and creativity. It is all so perfect. It is like a haze of wool waiting to be spun, this life. I have to get myself past the stressful moments, to know that all of it will pass, will ebb and flow, the universe goes on making its way where the spaces need filling. And fishing is a metaphor, you don’t have to keep every fish you catch, some you throw back, sometimes you catch nothing, though the worm is fat and juicy, and sometimes you catch the perfect one. I need to be able to remember in the times that are difficult, to reassure myself, to know that you don’t always get the fish.
I snap a picture of myself early in, before I have sweat too much, and I see that I am so relaxed and at ease, I see now as I review the photos, my own beauty. Though I still seem sometimes to need that reassurance, I am working hard to get away from it. Then again, I spent a lot of years, thinking, incorrectly, that that reassurance, was somehow healthy.
The morning dawns despite my restful sleep, more than once I awoke crying and whimpering in my sleep. The dog coming to kiss my face. I go for my morning run and it feels good, the day will be warm.
“Chaos is inherent in all the compounded things. Strive on with diligence.” ~ Buddha
And why do I forget in the darkness of my soul that all it takes is noticing and letting go. I know what I need: meditation or therapy again. But therapy only brings me to the realization of what I already know for myself. After about six visits I start feeling like I don’t need to be there anymore, I start say, yep, I know that, but when the tired creeps in and I forget. The say there is no rest for the wicked, there seems to be no rest either for the weary.
Maybe meditation would help me with the letting go, with the not biting the hook that reels me in and leaves me despairing in the shallows, I watched yesterday as a small mouth bass heard the plunk of the worm and then saw it on the silted rocks and bit it. I marveled at how he had no idea that the plunk and the sharp object and then the viewing of the worm meant capture. He was lucky to not be in season. But I am like that bass, I know what exquisite torture will follow, but I do it anyway. Maybe meditation will help me in recognizing the symptoms of my exhaustion, sometime before I hear the plunk of the worm, or that I will notice it and ignore it. It occurs to me that I do need to fish more.
I think of my coffee mug that says Peace means to remain serene despite what is going on around me, perhaps peace too is remaining calm despite what is happening inside me.
There is alot of darkness, but I know I am like a light house. I can be a beacon if I only let it shine. Must I wait for the fog, for the stormy weather?
The dog wakes me early, too early, his boredom eats my restiveness.
The morning is glorious sparkling sunshine, but somehow it grumbles and grouches and complains making me feel stupid and clumsy and inadequate, I beat it back like a pack of gnats, swarming but not biting. I cast my pole again and again, a nibble, a nibble, and then a bite. I pull it up and yes it is too small, I will never be good enough in this brilliant sunlight. I reflect on how I am filled with doubt, and when I am like this it is on every front. I don’t want to be this way.
Fiddle head ferns tall and curling up, and skunk cabbage emanating its very name sake as I crush it leaves into the swamp grass. My legs are cut and the burdock clings, I untangle my line again and again in the broken trees. The last cast, truly the last, use up this worm and it snaps my line. Ironic, or not, I do not know.
I feel this lonely feeling as though I never left those days in Rochester, with the cat meowing in the window as I parallel parked my car in tight spots where the bar goers had left. I yearned so much for not being lonely. I have come full circle. Even when I am not alone there is this feeling of being bereft. Cast adrift. Left to my own devices. I have to learn to embrace it. I bury my face under the down comforter smothering in the heat.
There it is, this deep melancholy that I carry like a heavy sack, my back is permanently bent with it. Why does it sneak up on my today? I ask for meaning and I get it like a shove, it pushes me away, it rejects my affection, my love, my desire, and it smacks me hard, leaving me bruised. I mull over it, for an hour, it goes on two and then suddenly I am taken, I get up to leave but it beats me out the door like a broom on a stray dogs ass. Get lost. It asks if I want to return, how can I utter the words no. Because you make me feel crushed. You make me feel empty and alone. How can I say, only if you promise to stop to take a vacation from your constant berating. You do not want me. It’s clear. Why ask what I want?
I cry, not for long, but that feeling in my stomach isn’t all that good.
The day was cold and cloudy, I got into the truck and immediately the pirate and his friend admonished me to get another jacket. I declined and of course the pirate who is always prepared had at least two extra jackets in the back. When we got to Clinton Square I had to admit it was chilly, but within one hour the sun had come out and we were all removing our sweaters and jackets. This was year five of the festival, started to raise money for Katrina and for the gulf of Mexico, it has continued to raise money for Bernard’s Parish. The pirate is so personable and open that literally everywhere we go he “has people” and this was no exception. We walked up to the man who was running the boil and he shook hands and greeted him by name. We were treated shortly by a handful of boiled shrimp. I tried the jambalaya and the gumbo which were delicious. Later I tried a crawfish, I am not a big fan of lobster, ever since I boiled one alive, oh not by dropping it in the already boiling water, but by putting him in a pot and cooking him alive, his tap dancing toes on the bottom of the pot was the first sign of my ignorant mistake. I am a soft hearted thing and it was one of the last times I ever ate it. Also lobster carries some memories of my Mom being rushed to the hospital in anaphylactic shock, that leaves me leery of it though I eat crab, scallops and shrimp with little fear. I was not fond of the crawfish though either. I really felt queasy about sucking out their brains, I know it was all mental so next time I will try more. Cyrus, the man who ran the boil said that last year they had 1600 pounds of crawfish and had 400 pounds left over, this year they ran out by about 330 in the afternoon. Now that the boil was ended they ran a special boil using the venison sausage and peanuts that the pirate brought and we also had access to boiled garlic bulbs and some of the spiciest most delicious mushrooms I have ever eaten. We finished off the day with biegnets and coffee, the beignets taste kind of like a sweet fried biscuit, I suspect though that they were not nearly as good as the real New Orleans ones. It was such a great day, we stayed until the end of the festival, as the sun was going down I was getting pretty cold and the free t-shirts we were given by the boilers were a great, and I used one over my clothes to warm up. I had a pretty good sunburn, I thought the week in paradise would have set me with a base tan enough to not burn, but it did not quite cut it, you could even see the imprint of my disk shaped necklace on my chest.
“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” Buddha
I found a journal in the bookstore, in the clearance book section that has a quote on each page attributed to the Buddha, I bought it with the intention of using it to take notice of the presence of Buddhism in the serendipitous progress of my life. (although I have not been formally practicing for several months (the excuses are endless but of poor quality) So this is the first post from the book.
The first day of the week, I write, “SORRY” is word that could bring peace.
Later in the week I start speaking about truths and lies and how it is better to speak a thousand truths than one lie.
The day breaks bright and sunny. I am up early with the dog, it is crisp, but if it is anything like yesterday it will be warm, my sunburned face and arms tell how unexpectedly warm it really was. I did not sleep well, my thoughts were full and deep, I think it was the pull of the giant moon. Take me fishing, I tell the pirate before breakfast. The breeze over the reservoir is chilly, particularly in the shade. I cast out long over the water, then sit to wait for the tip of the pole to bob up and down. The kildeer are skimming the water, I can hear a woodpecker laughing, and two red winged blackbirds are calling back and forth to one another as I sit between them. The kid who tried to fish in the same spot as us, before the pirate politely told him to leave, is talking to his dad somewhere around the corner, I can hear them but not see them. The wind is making the waves lap, but here where it is more secluded than the first spot, it is not bouncing the pole. For the briefest of moments I feel whole, at one, complete, I am not doing yoga as I should be, and didn’t go to the Zen Center as I should have, but I am meditative as the sun shines on the camo jacket I bought last week at a flea market for five bucks, the cuffs are not even worn, so it is like brand new. I am sitting in the grass as the dog whines over by the pirate, he is tied to a sapling but he wants to be set free. When the pirate lets him go the dog runs to me and back to the pirate and then he goes in the water and comes out and shakes it off on the pirate’s gear, goes back in the water and shakes it on the pirate, and he does it several times, making him holler; a feeling I know well because later as he mows the lawn and I weed his rock garden I leave the dog’s poop in the yard just to make him yell. It makes me laugh out loud when he does, but back at the water the dog keeps looking up at him and smiling shaking that swampy muddy water off on him.
As I sit waiting for a fish to bite, I think the purpose of fishing is not to catch a fish, rather it is an opportunity to commune with nature, catching a fish is good, but sitting quietly along the bank of some body of water, that is even better. And when I think this, I realize that sitting at the Zen Center may not be the answer, it is formal, and obeisant; there is something to be said for this informal recognition of the connectedness of life for being present in the everyday, to being able to move if my hip hurts, to being able to pet the dog if he comes to say hello, to be able to toss words to the man I love, though we do not talk constantly and we are just as comfortable with the silence. Maybe I have it wrong though, perhaps formal sitting brings some other great reward that I cannot fathom. But honestly, I would rather sit and fish than and come to the revelations, than to sit formally. Catching the fish is not the point. It is the waiting for the bite that brings serenity.
I realize that sorry isn’t the word, the only word that can bring peace is forgiveness, with or without the sorry.
All one needs to be at peace is the ability to forgive, others, ones self, the world, the events that occur, the suffering, the pain, forgive it, forgive.
The moon is full, the smell of lilacs and skunk linger in the warm air, it is still and quiet or maybe not so much quiet as it is ordinary. There are college kids having parties and driving loud vehicles around the neighborhood, revving motorcycles spin in the endless loop, growing louder and louder and softer and softer and the sound grows again. In a few short days the big college town will become the sleepy summer town that I have grown to love. Although the existential angst is like a tattoo on my beating heart and my sloshing brain, my mood has brightened as I have been able to enjoy the warming weather, and long walks. My mind not so much empty as I would seek in meditation, but my thoughts are easy, and I do not dwell much, but there is a spaciousness to them, they open up and the questions seem smaller, the solutions simpler. It is the walking that throws open the doors and sweeps out the cobwebs, I feel like Mrs. Havisham some days with my grey dress and my moldy cake.
It all comes down to thinking there is actually some grand and great meaning to all of this, or that there is some answer to the why. The thing is, I realize as the skunk and lilac is replaced by dryer sheets, that there may not be, I mean a grand and great meaning, an answer, or a solution. And even if there is one, letting go of it is the only way to find peace and serenity. If you keep waiting for the answers to come to you, it will cut off your breathe, leave you panting and moaning and questing endlessly for an ounce of fresh flesh, meanwhile you are but a rotting corpse of what you could be. The smell of woodsmoke wafts across and intermingles with the skunk. Perhaps the answer is just this.
I decide to write, though I have held my words for many days, because I felt a need to swaddle myself, but writing feels way better than the cocoon. All stalkers be damned. Stalk away. Have your fun. You will not crush my spirit. I emerged long ago and found I was a most beautiful moth.
“He turned around angrily on the others and said “Everybody crowds round so in this Forest. There’s no Space. I never saw a more Spreading lot of animals in my life, and in all the wrong places.” ” ~ Eeyore – AA. Milne
I have to admit it, I have been in a blue funk to beat all blue funks. I mean on the outside I am okay but on the inside I am shaking my fists at the heavens and crying “what does it all mean?” or alternately putting my face into my fists and shaking my head and crying out “why, why, why” I know, it’s so whiny my problems so terribly first world. So incredibly small.
The blue funk is evidenced by not doing, not doing art, not sewing, not knitting, not reading, not writing. The blue funk is evidenced by the three piles of books I have 1A. Keep 1B. Keep but take to work 2. Morgan 3. Sell or throw away. Is evidenced by the bags of clothing that I have gotten rid of, though they still fit, and shoes, and purses, and crappy belts they sell you with pants, as if I don’t have one of my own to wear with them, or would rather wear a cheap crappy one than the good one I do own. Is evidenced by the outdated and broken electronics getting bigger and bigger by the minute. Is evidenced by the organizing of my knitting stash, my sewing goods, and today my classroom. I finally got around to organizing my fiber closet (its been only ten years), in which a discovered a half dozen back-strap loom parts. (cool) and I organized another stack of shelves where I will be putting all the art books that I am clearing out of my house. The blue funk is evidenced by a decided demeanor of abject despair and dejection. I feel like Eeyore.
On Monday I won a trivia contest at work and received a 5$ gift certificate to the book fair, which I used to by a book for the little Nepali girl I was working with last week and discovered how bad her reading skills are, though she has been in school since kindergarten. She told me, oh thank you Missus Gregory, oh thank you, and hugged me four times. Last week she showed me her fleece jacket, remember, she said with a smile, you buyed me this? Yes A. I do remember. I bought it for her three years ago. She is still so tiny.
As I was leaving work I noticed hundreds of Red Admiral butterflies in the air swooping across the parking lot, followed closely by grackles and some other birds. All the way home their bodies dotted the sky. I have never seen a migration of this level before. It was muggy and hot. I mowed the lawn, sad to cut the full yard of blue forget me nots. And after I cleaned my room and organized another part of the house, I decided to exercise, going 3 miles as the sun slowly sank into the horizon.
I still feel down. I know why, it is stress, and powerlessness, and a deep tired, of the insanity of our world.