Monday, October 27, 2008

Under the Weather

It's Monday morning, and although I'm supposed to be in Sebastopol, California, attending an important company meeting, I'm sitting here in my kitchen in West Gloucester, in my bathrobe.

I'm sick: I have had a bad cold for the past week. I spend my days coughing my lungs out about every 3 minutes or so and trying to outsmart a headache that advances and recedes, depending on the drugs I throw its way. I'm pretty sure that there's nothing a doctor could do for me--this is just one of those colds that hangs on until you stop doing all the things you normally do, and just rest.

Rest. Not a term I'm all that familiar with, certainly not something I'm particularly capable of. I never stop moving, never stop thinking, never stop running from this activity to that responsibility. Between work, maintaining a house and a yard, taking care of my animals, keeping in touch with family and friends, and making art, there's never a break. Mostly that's alright, except when I get sick and the only way back to health is to rest.

My former therapist once gave me an assignment: she told me that I had to do nothing for an entire day. No work, no grocery shopping, nothing but relaxing, breathing, looking out the window, maybe going for a walk. It was excruciating. Like a drunk with the DTs, I was twitching both mentally and physically. For me, sitting still just to sit still is nearly impossible: forget yoga (although I am guessing that yoga would help).

To rest when I have so much I want to do, have to do, is to destroy the village to save it. Not doing anything in order to get well so I'm still able to do everything.

I hate it. But I'll do it. What other choice do I have?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Duck Hunting Season

It's duck hunting season. I live in a house that overlooks a huge salt marsh that leads into the Annisquam River. Every year around this time, hunters make floating blinds out in the river and blast away at the ducks.

This morning I woke up to the sound of shotguns across the marsh. The sound always depresses me; I'll never understand how anyone can get any joy or satisfaction from blowing birds out of the sky or killing animals in the woods. Just because we can, should we? Especially in this day and age, when meat is so readily available, and relatively cheap.

I get the whole thing about the circle of life--I do. But I can't kill animals. Won't, in fact, not even the mice who live in my garden shed. And I do eat meat. Yes, that makes me some kind of hypocrite, but I just can't abide the suffering of any animal. Unlike us, they have no choice about what they do, and little choice about what we make them do. It is up to us to treat them well.

I can only hope that the hunters this season have either terrible aim, missing their prey completely, or else dead-on aim that makes the killing process as quick and painless as possible.

Sic transit gloria mundi, ducks.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time: what a concept. Wish I'd invented it.

Time is such an amazingly fluid thing.

For instance, how long, really, is an hour? When I'm at the dentist (as I was yesterday), an hour is A WHOLE FRIGGING HOUR. But when I'm focused on a knotty design problem, that same hour could be just an instant; I look up and it's been three hours or five or six since I last checked the time.

Where does that time go? If you don't pay attention to every moment, do you lose something valuable? Time zips by; time drags. Yet it's all divided into the same units of measure: each second lasts just as long as the next and the next and the one after that.

But it sure doesn't feel that way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It is what it is.

It's my new mantra. "It is what it is." Instead of fighting against some apparently immoveable obstacle or situation, accept it for what it is.

And then figure out what to do next.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's not about you.

I have observed that there is at least one thing that cats and horses have in common: they think it's about them, all the time.

When the doorbell rings, Roxy scoots down to the basement, to the darkest corner of a storage closet. If the doorbell even rings on TV, she's gone. When the ice maker in my freezer tosses another load of cubes into the bin, Roxy heads for the hills. If I am wrestling a garbage bag into the kitchen trash can, she's outtathere. She's absolutely convinced that something terrible is going to happen to her.

My horse, Wolfie, while somewhat less of a nervous Nellie, is also sure that he's a target. Horses are flight animals: they run away from predators. So, the log across the path that wasn't there yesterday, the fake brick wall in the arena that's in a new location, the leafy branch that fell next to the trail--all of these things give him pause. If the menace is behind him, he bolts a few steps. If it's next to him, he jumps sideways. If it's in front of him, he stops in his tracks, front legs splayed, head held either very high (if the apparent troll is a distance away) or very low (if it's right in front of him, on the ground). As he gets more confident, he's less and less nervous, but his response to any new situation is viewed through that filter.

. . .

There have been so many times when I've been fearful or angry or hurt because I interpreted whatever was going on around me as being about me. I spent what must have been a decade in therapy railing about work until one day I realized that the dysfunction had little to do with me. It was what it was, and I just happened to be there--participating and, no doubt, contributing to it--but it wasn't about me, really, at all. Once I realized that, I found that I was no longer so angry and defensive at work. It wasn't all about me = it wasn't all my fault.

. . .

Years ago, I owned a Thoroughbred horse named Danny. He was big, opinionated, and a little hot, but seemed unflappable, and I trusted him the way I had trusted my childhood horse, who always took care of me no matter what we came across. One day, for no apparent reason, Danny spooked and bolted in the outdoor arena, and I fell off.

It was illuminating: I felt betrayed, because I somehow believed that he had intentionally done it to me. Some weeks later, I consulted an animal communicator (yes, I know, I know), and asked her to tell him that he had scared me when he bolted, and that I didn't like it. When she asked him about the incident, he said that he'd seen something at the edge of the arena out of the corner of his eye and it spooked him.

And then he said, "You know, it's not always about you."

Thursday, October 9, 2008


A friend once suggested that the best way to spend one's birthday is to have your version of an ideal day, doing whatever it is you really love to do, not necessarily what everyone thinks you ought to do on your birthday.

And that is what I did. It was a beautiful fall day spent picking apples, stacking firewood, wading at the beach, and cantering Wolfie across a still-green field near the barn.

(A side note: one of my favorite books is Birthday by Dorothea Tanner, the wife of Max Ernst. Highly recommended.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stacking Firewood

For the first time, this winter I am going to try to heat my house with wood. I have been stacking firewood--a lot of firewood--this fall. There's something about the process that feels elemental: just think how long human beings have been collecting, splitting, storing, and using firewood. The patient energy of trees is turned into heat and light at the darkest time of the year.

When I was a teenager, I used to help my dad split wood. I loved the sound of the sledgehammer hitting the iron wedge, the ever-so-satisfying crack of a log as it split in two, and then sitting before the fire on winter evenings, remembering the beautiful fall days we spent splitting and stacking the wood.

These days I only split a few logs by hand, just to get oversized pieces small enough to fit into my stove. But I still insist on stacking it all myself, even as my back objects. And this winter, what I will remember is how much joy I found, today, in this simple chore.

Friday, October 3, 2008


For God's sake, why can't politicians learn how to speak English?

In addition to the completely backwards and incorrect sentence construction she seems to favor, Sarah Palin sounds like she's channeling W. every time she mispronounces "nuclear." For someone who is supposed to be an expert on energy issues (expertise which I sincerely doubt has any relevance to those of us in the lower 48), it would seem that learning to pronounce that one word properly would be a snap.

Alas, that is not so for Ms. Palin. If, by some unfortunate series of events, this woman ever comes to be our president, we'll have to listen to that word being mispronounced--again--for years to come. God help us all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Too many cooks make bad soup.

Companies often try to create a culture of inclusion as they wrestle with various decisions. While I am a fan of getting input from people who have a stake in whatever is being decided, I am usually a bigger fan of just making the damned decision and getting on with it. Coming to complete agreement isn't always necessary, depending on the decision being made; in some cases, getting bogged down in process is worse than making a so-so decision and carrying it out well. Stuff gets done and the world doesn't come to an end. (Unless, of course, the issue is deregulation on Wall Street--we all know what happens then. But that may be because the wrong cooks were in the kitchen in the first place. Their cooks. Not ours.)