Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For Michelle and Another October Passed

Tomorrow marks the start of November, the day of the dead, and the end of October. Six years ago I spent most of this month on my knees, pushing all air from my lungs, feeling the empty heat in my core until the next wave of sobs shook me. Snot and tears lubricated my passage of one day to the next.

In the beginning of the month my friend Michelle had gone missing. It seemed impossible that my forever friend, a woman with soft brown eyes you could swim in, an easy smile, and a laugh that pulled her shoulders up and down, a woman who I shared late night beers with as I passed through Virginia one soggy evening just months before, would  take off from her new home in Vermont without notice. Even harder to believe for a woman like me,  steeped in idealism and nativity like a thrice used tea bag, was that someone would take her.

Hikers found Michelle lifeless and brutalized a week after her disappearance  I poured over the details of the police  affidavit: the scratches, the hematomas, the traces of DNA and semen. I dreamt nightly that I was there with her.

These images rub me raw, not only because of their graphic and violent nature, but because they cloud my memories of a friend who picked me up by my guts to hear me fart and died laughing when the lemonade we drank mixed with our laughter and came shooting out of my nose.  She was the first friend I shared the darker parts of my life with and she allowed me into the shadowy sides of her own.

When we were in first grade we sat between two raspberry bushes and Michelle explained marine biology to me, her chosen profession at that time. We explored the first thrills of hanging out with boys at a Pizza Hut lit by greasy yellow lamps that hung over maroon booths and dialed inappropriate 1-800 numbers on the pay phone next to the door.

 Late at night on the pull out couch in your parents shadowy basement under a laminated copy of the constitution you'd hold my hands before we fell asleep. You'd tell me corny jokes like your dad's. Every time I eat dates, especially with peanut butter, I think of your mom, so dedicated to your success, and your snorting pug Fonsu running in tight circles around your living room. Even thought that beer was long overdue it was like nothing between us had changed--that we would continue along on separate paths and still find eachother endlessly interesting and entertaining in the years to come.

I think of you still. I know we all do. I bring you with me to snowy outcroppings to watch the alpenglow. I keep you by my side while I'm hitching a ride. And in the quiets of October I can still hear you bouncing your shoulders and laughing.

The scars on my wounded heart threaten to gush open when such a tender and emotionally wrought topic like rape is so cavalierly part of the political conversation. I feel incapable of speaking intelligibly. Waves of emotion wait in the wings readied to flood and drown all those in close proximity. I can't even begin to comprehend such small minded statements from men who seemingly know so little about violation and the sanctity of life.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Encounter with a Mountain Lion

Last night, I looked up from the sowing project in my lap and locked eyes with a mountain lion. I sat in front of a window that stretches from the floor to the ceiling in a rocking chair, ten feet from the enormous feline; she looked directly at me.

Those unmistakable, round eyes penetrated me to the core and though I pulled myself out of the chair with confidence, my insides turned to mush. I yelled at the lion in a deep voice, ordering it to go away. Rather than retreating, she advanced, and in two swift steps her nose was at the glass.

Ruda responded to my bellows and came to my side, completely unaware of the hair-raising wildness perched three feet from us. Immediately the cat's eyes turned to Rudabega and in that moment I crumbled.

I drew her away from the window. I hid under the desk. I refused to look in the direction of any of the widows. My skin crawled. Adrenaline coursed through me like thousands of angry bees.

When I got home yesterday I found vomit all over the floor. It seemed Dixie, our unloved cat, had an upset stomach. Since Dev left to teach a six week course in Cape Code, Dixie has become my sole responsibility and I wish her dead daily. After cleaning her vomit I threw her outside for the night. She sat at the next window over watching me all night and remained in her place when the mountain lion arrived. I was certain I manifested her death. And though I hate her, I felt remorse and guilt.

After ten minutes of cowering I kept my eyes to the floor as I walked to the window to retrieve my phone. I called Luke, and shamelessly begged him to come over. I did not try to hide the terror in my voice. I woke Dev, it was 1:30 in the morning East Coast time, to tell him I was certain I killed his cat. He assured me that this would be the perfect way for Dixie to go and then asked me to go to the windows so I could describe the lion in greater detail. I refused.

Never has a hug felt more welcomed than when Luke arrived.  I remembered the way my parents' hugs made everything bad go away in an instant the moment Luke wrapped me in his arms. I finally relaxed and I would not let him go.

I tossed and turned in my bed, the eyes of the panther burned into me. Adrenaline filled me again at intervals throughout the night, like the chest of my friend, rising and falling. I matched my breath to his. I watched the sky grow light, drinking up the soft, streaming pastels, and bathed in the bright pinks and oranges. Dixie mewed at my door.

In the haunting darkness the lion seemed so threatening and her advances menacing. But in the comfort of daylight I wondered if she had been curious, trying to get a better understanding of the wildness of lights and noise. I won't be running at dusk for awhile, or peeing outside...or doing anything outside around my place at night until the cold settles in and the cat heads for higher climes.

These photos were all taken by Andrew Cranson, a man of many talents and trades. He's a farmer, a hunter, a musician, a photographer, and a ladies man.
Andrew Cranson

Andrew Cranson

Andrew Cranson
Andrew Cranson

Monday, October 22, 2012

Unknotting Your Knickers

Who's ready for a little cyber exercise here? Take a second to check-in with yourself and consider whether you've got your knickers in a knot over some situation or another. If you don't come up with anything, holy shit, I think you're enlightened!! Or… in serious denial, and I'd put some nag champa on the line and bet it's the latter.

For those of you who have a grievance that's slightly greater than getting cut off at the Third Sreet intersection, I will also bet you think about this situation a lot. And when you do, I bet you think the same damn thoughts, over and over and over again, kinda like when you reorganize your kitchen and move the forks to a different drawer and then spend the next month swearing because every time you open the old fork drawer you remember that sneaky you thought they needed to be closer to the stove. With the repetitive story situation, however, you can't help but agonize over every detail, and even though that story is so lame, so old, so over-played, so boring, you can't help but tell it to yourself again. You might even write a blog post so that hundreds of people will know your story! 

Guess what?! No matter how many times you tell that story (I'm talking to myself here, but if you also need this little pep talk you can pretend like I wrote this for you), no matter how many people hear you tell it, it doesn't make the pain go away. It does bring your heart rate up though.

Since my last post I've been thinking about how no one intended to bring pain and suffering into my life.  I take it all so personally, but it's not about me. It rarely is. 

Hidden proof that I haven't worked on any projects since peach season

Final product.

The Reservoir.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting Out With It

I insecurely hesitated as I published my last few posts, because I know I'm tip-toeing around, saying the same thing over and over without really sharing much.  I'm still hiding, perhaps out of courtesy to others, fear of over sharing (too late you say?), or a desire to appear clean by not miring myself in the muck of life. 

When I checked my e-mail yesterday I laughed. My neighboring blogging pal, Laurel, totally picked up on this and gently prodded. 

What is actually going on in your life. People want to know. 
But I don't want admit to the things that make me a puny asshole!


S, is unarguably a wonderful person. We "broke up" a few years ago even though we were never together in a formal, monogamous way. Ultimately S chose another woman over me. 

This is me during that relationship:
I don't have expectations! I'm free from attachments! I have no boundaries!

In the aftermath of this relationship I discover I am a liar.

I continue to lug my bucket of sand around with me so that I can insert my head in it at opportune moments. I pretend I am okay with being brushed off by S. I cry when S fails to prioritize our "friendship".  Then we have drawn out, challenging, and gratifying conversations that make me feel uncomfortably closer while also exposing how insecure, controlling, and needy I am.

I engage in unproductive conversations with the Other Woman, as if this is the person I have problems with. I realize that I need to take space, that it might always be uncomfortable, that being friends with someone who is involved with the crumbly contents of my cookie-heart is pretty complicated, confusing, and perverse.

I finally allow myself time to be sad that the one I fell for didn't fall for me. I decide I don't want to be a good sport anymore. I stop pretending. 

I stop moping. I raise my head, pull my shoulders back. I put the whole messy story behind me as another learning lesson. I start dreaming. I start praying. I open myself to what's next with intention.

In the meanwhile, S's best friend is unshakably there for me as I fall apart and put myself together. I confuse this for budding romance... 

Someone else comes along. While they suggest we explore something, I sit in a bathtub with all my clothes on: my attempt at setting boundaries. I press pause to I listen to my skepticism. Even though it tugs at me all along the way, I relent.  Again, the relationship falls apart. I curse myself for my horrible decision making. For not listening to myself. For that damn bucket of sand I keep putting my head into.  

This is not exactly a tidy, packaged version of myself. It's not right. It's not wrong. It is a call for tenderness. Maybe I'll meet you there, in that space of being.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beyond Knowing

A few months ago I felt more strongly connected to my heart than ever. I was the ferocious guardian of my integrity and my intuition, which were immersed in tension that leads to self knowledge. The longing of my soul to crack its shell, leap into the ocean, and become naked to myself and others pulled tight and strong on every cord within me.

Then I made a decision that wasn't in alignment with my intuition. And from that decision came another, and another, and another. And when I looked up I was far away, like I had climbed into a canyon and come up on the other side.

Who else goes to that place that is far less threatening but leaves you emotionally starving? I do.

My mom and I have had a historically rocky relationship. During that  glorious, opening, heart-mending time we connected in an unprecedented way. I daringly let go of the stories from childhood--

    I have to be careful,
             I can't get too close,
                  Trust is a painful thing

--and I opened myself to her. My heart was instantly flooded. She's coming to visit me next week, just her and me together for the first time in my adult life. I am beyond grateful that we aren't going to wait any longer to do this.

As for my connection with my heart, I'm feeling better. I'm remembering my agency. I'm practicing my faith. I'm recognizing that the world works in ways that are far beyond my capacity of knowing.

Fall arrived on the day of Shawn and Chelsea's wedding.

After another amazing weekend, it's back to school.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bear Heart

Recently we've seen a dramatic increase in our local population; bears are scrambling down from the high country with napkins tied around their necks. With limited rains food becomes scarce for most high dwelling  creatures and their hunger directs them towards the abundance of fruit that floods our valley.  Farmers aren't the only ones who suffer through droughts.  The bears are starving and winter has hardly begun.

Allison now grasps the sleepless condition that is usually only familiar to new parents since a handful of bear started to visit her orchard each night. Photos are in order, and though the bears would make excellent subjects, I'm excited by Allison's bear scare-outfit: boots, shot gun, and a nighty-- haute couture in these parts.

For every bear spotted last season there are about seven this year, yet they still managed to give Dev a thrill in their smaller numbers. Dev heard a late night clamor by the chicken coop, grabbed his flashlight, and raced to the rescue. He dashed inside the coop pulling the door behind him just as a bear grabbed the other side of the handle. 

After a few seconds of tug of war, Dev let go of the door, swung his flashlight high, and brought it down swiftly over the top of the bear's head.  Startled, the bear dropped to all fours, turned, and hurtled away. Beside wrecking havoc on Dev's sleep cycle, this bear took the entirety of our beloved chicken, Rosa's, tail feathers. We've taken to calling our hearty survivor Bear-Bare Butt. 

Across cultures bears represent courage and bravery, two things missing from my ife lately. Without my notice, defeat quietly and silently filled the void created by their absence and left me immobilized and disoriented like celestial navigator facing an unrelenting, thick cloud cover.  But today I surrendered to the fear and the soft vulnerability within, and like the first flickering of day light, my strength began to break through, hungry, eager, and waking from hibernation. 
This is Rosa, who had a close encounter with a bear.

Although the bear made off with her tail feathers she manages to live a happy and full life.

This is Dev. I live on his property. Every time I imagine him hitting a bear with a flash light I giggle.

This bear was hit by a car while crossing the high way late at night. She was butchered and frozen for winter meals.