“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.” ― Charles Dickens
When Herself walks alone, she can Think, and Process Stuff, and Work Through Things, and other such (cliché but important) activities. Where she walks is not as important as when she walks. Every day, if at all possible, she tries to squeeze in a little bit of walking. Even being on vacation is not an exception; while Herself was away in Tombstone, AZ, this past weekend, she took advantage of the early morning hours before the sun was too high to take a walk around the RV park where they were staying.
Herself had sent her farewell e-mail to her colleagues on Friday as she resigned from her telecommuting position, and the final closing of that door was surprisingly heartrending. She knew it would be sad, certainly, but for it to be SO sorrowful was unexpected. The long drive from home to Arizona barely dulled the grief. She couldn't even face socializing with her friends Friday evening -- an unheard-of state of affairs -- and retired early to be alone with her heartache.
When she woke up Saturday morning, she walked. And walking was not enough. So she jogged here and there, and ran a tiny bit, too. If only she could move fast enough to leave the sorrow behind for just a while.
She could not. Still, the walking helped.
While she walked, she thought about how a year ago in the same RV park, she had ottoman-shaped dog and ancient and decrepit dog with her. Now they are both gone. And she thought about how a year ago in the same RV park, she had her job. Now it is gone, too. It's not a death in the same way as the passing of her canines, but it is, in its own way, very much its own sort of demise.
She wondered idly whether in the future she would associate Tombstone with sadness, since the sentiment seems to be so pervasive there for her. It seems somehow appropriate for a town named such.
The past nine months have been absolutely replete with goodbyes. As long as she keeps walking, though, she will get through them all.
Godspeed, Dr. Angelou. Thank you for all of your words.
The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
While away this weekend, we investigated a riverbed which held a bit of water - enough to support water bugs, aquatic spiders, and (as you can see in the up-close-and-personal photograph) crayfish. Fascinating.
We went away for the weekend, for what is becoming a traditional Memorial Day event -- Wyatt Earp Days in Tombstone, AZ. We'll provide details once we've finished with the Giant Mountain of vacation laundry and the downloading of photographs and the catching-up-with-e-mail and such. We enjoyed being away, but we are glad to be back. The best part of returning is having Tiny Dog (who spent an exciting and exhausting weekend with her grandparents) with us once more. Such a minuscule scrap of life is the Tiny Dog -- and yet, her soft fur and her enthusiasm and her fiercely protective loyalty are so very soothing. There will be a Tiny Dog-shaped space in our hearts, always.
Behold the lovely orchid sent by Herself's employers, as a gift upon her resignation.
It's just glorious.
Despite her tendency to inadvertently contribute to the demise of most plant life, Herself shall make every possible effort to keep this beautiful specimen alive in honor of her employers. They have been so very good to her; it's the least she can do.
Herself has not discussed her employment here in the blog beyond mentioning that she telecommutes. Work is completely separate and distinct from the online blogging life; never the twain shall meet. Nevertheless, an event of sufficient importance is occurring, so that it bears mentioning here: after twenty-three years with her employer -- the last seventeen of which as a telecommuter -- Herself has resigned from her position in order to focus on local opportunities. It's a tremendous change, and she has struggled mightily with it. Even though it is necessary and appropriate for her to take a different course at this point, the sorrows (and other complex emotions) associated with the transition have been absolutely gigantic.
She is unmoored.
She feels fragile and tiny. She is awash in a sea of possibilities, attempting to steer around obstacles and to avoid becoming discouraged by uncertainties and unlikelihoods. She's not quite sure which way the wind is blowing, or in which direction she should point her lifeboat. Sometimes, the sunrise shines on the path ahead and it appears that it could be a very good road. Other times, there's quite a bit of fog, and the grey of the ocean is menacing. She would benefit from a hand to hold, yet she does not want to reach out and ask lest she look weak or pathetic. It is hard.
We have a love/hate relationship with the song, Last Kiss. The lyrics are unbearably sad, and yet we must listen whenever we come across it. The best version we've heard so far is by Pearl Jam (see, for example, here.) We hope that you do not find it too painful, and that you enjoy.
Today's activities included Herself's annual mammogram. (Mammogram! Sounds like someone will deliver a pair of ta-tas right to your door.) She had the option to use the 3D scanner -- a new technology -- and chose to do so, along with the auto-CAD double-check of the radiology scans. The more information, the better, particularly after last year's momentary mammary-related mystery.
It was all quite routine: answer the questions; point out the three old scars from surgeries past so that they can be marked; cozy up to the machine, tolerate the squashed sensation, and hold one's breath while the machine whirs; all done. Easy peasy.
We'll just assume that the results will be blissfully, boringly normal. That would be a Good Thing Indeed.
This is a magnificent poem by Richard Blanco. He read it aloud on National Public Radio's Fresh Air a bit ago; Herself's Beloved Husband heard it and told her about it. She found the poem online. It is exactly the way it is. (She would extend its reach beyond the telephone to all forms of electronic communication, and to all of those she loves when they are incommunicado.)
It is perfect.
His plane went down over Los Angeles last week (again), or was it Long Island? Boxer shorts, hair gel, his toothbrush washed up on the shore of New Haven, but his body never recovered, I feared.
Monday, he cut off his leg chain sawing— bled to death slowly while I was shopping for a new lamp, never heard my messages on his cell phone: Where are you? Call me! I told him to be careful. He never listens.
Tonight, fifteen minutes late, I’m sure he’s hit a moose on Route 26, but maybe he survived, someone from the hospital will call me, give me his room number. I’ll bring his pajamas, some magazines.
5:25: still no phone call, voice mail full. I turn on the news, wait for the report: flashes of moose blood, his car mangled, as I buzz around the bedroom dusting the furniture, sorting the sock drawer
one more time.
Did someone knock? I’m expecting the sheriff by six o’clock. Mr. Blanco, I’m afraid . . . he’ll say, hand me a Ziploc with his wallet, sunglasses, wristwatch. I’ll invite him in, make some coffee.
6:25: I’ll have to call his mother, explain, arrange to fly the body back home. Do I have enough garbage bags for his clothes? I should keep his ties — but his shoes? They do fit me.
Order flowers — what were his favorite, red or white?
By seven-thirty I’m taking mental notes for his eulogy, suddenly adoring all I’ve hated, ten years’ worth of nose hairs in the sink, of lost car keys, of chewing too loudly and hogging the bedsheets,
when suddenly Joey our dog yowls, ears to the sound of footsteps up the drive, and darts to the doorway. I follow with a scowl: Where the hell were you? Couldn’t call?
Translation: I die each time I kill you.
You can hear the author read his magnificent work, here:
How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be. ― Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open
Let's take a trip back in time to some old music, reminiscent of college years. Today's earworm: Love is the Drug, by Roxy Music.
Love is the drug and I need to score
If you enjoy that one, you might also want to consider some other Roxy Music classics, such as Avalon. Much communication in a motion Without conversation or a notion
While Love is the Drug is best danced alone, Avalon is best danced slowly and closely with another person.
And if those please you, consider listening to this one by Bryan Ferry (frontman of Roxy Music): Slave to Love. That is best heard in solitude, while contemplating the individual for whom or with whom one would like to dance. You're running with me Don't touch the ground We're the restless hearted Not the chained and bound
The sky is burning A sea of flame Though your world is changing I will be the same
Today is Mother's Day. Mother's Day, much like Valentine's Day, has become an overblown, social-obligation-laden occasion. It is as if spending money and generating elaborate events, especially if such things are given or performed in front of the public, are somehow indicative of how much people care for/are grateful for/love their mothers.
I'm a firm believer that it's not the particular holiday that is so critical -- one big serving of gratitude on a single day each year does not feed a mother's soul. Rather, it is all the inconsequential moments of the mundane days that are vital: showing appreciation by helping by making an occasional meal, folding a bit of laundry, recognizing the things that are important to her and participating in them, or just offering a heartfelt "thank you" every now and then. Give us this day our daily bread. One day at a time is how we move through life. Each day is a new day to be a mother, and a new day to try again to be helpful to, or grateful for, a mother.
Mothering is a unique activity -- complex, nuanced, ever-evolving. It's a learn-as-you-go activity. Mistakes are made, and apologies are given, many times. Sometimes, gloriously good actions are miraculously performed. It's a challenge and a calling. What does it entail?
We would be remiss if we failed to mention that most obvious component of mothering: love. (Ah, love. You are undefinable. You are there, strange and wonderful, always.) Love forms the underpinnings of motherly actions; yet love is a mere fraction of all that encompasses mothering.
Early emphasis is on a trio of necessities: instruction, guidance, and discipline. Offspring must learn to walk, to tie their shoes; to do their homework, to help around the house; to understand how to interact with other people, and to behave in the manner expected by society; to be kind and truthful, and to accept the consequences of their actions. It's quite tricky.
Mothering takes a different shape as the Offspring grow into themselves and launch into the world. (This is the odd nature of mothering -- successful raising of Offspring renders the mother unnecessary.) Advice is given only when requested; discipline is no longer used. Mothers must bite their tongues and let Offspring make mistakes or choices that the mothers themselves would not choose, and must still be there to pick up pieces if necessary.
Be free, Offspring. We will be right here, should you need something.
Adults (most of the time) do not need "mothering." Still, they retain certain needs. They want to know that someone is concerned if they scrape their elbows or need their gallbladders removed. They require comfort when they are heartsick. They wish for someone to step in and help when they are exhausted and overwhelmed. No man is an island. Although adults plow ahead alone through life, they still hold within their hearts the hope that someone cares.
What they seek, though isn't mothering, per se; rather, it is nurturing. Remember that old math adage that we learned in school -- all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares? All mothering includes nurturing, although not all nurturing includes mothering.
We all need nurturing. And so for Mother's Day, it is our wish that all mothers find themselves nurtured -- not in a spectacular or expensive way on a particular date, but rather, in the small, daily nourishment that each one needs.
On bodies, appearance, and sexuality. Contains some sweeping generalizations as well as glossings-over of certain points. Perhaps we'll address those points in more detail in the future.
Nearly thirty years ago, Herself briefly dated a young man who had firm ideas about how a girl should comport and adorn herself. When they went out to a movie, Herself wore sandals; she'd polished her toenails in a soft pink color. As they waited for the film to begin, he frowned at her feet and told her that he thought nail polish looked cheap and sleazy, and that she should not wear it. She tucked her feet underneath her during the movie, so the offending polish wouldn't be visible. The next day, she removed the polish.
He and she dated for three weeks. He then broke up with her (we've told that tale previously) because he expected sexual servicing, and Herself's disinclination to delve into physical activities with someone she barely knew trumped any desire to please him. He had already lined up another girl as his prom date for the following week; Herself could only assume that the girl had fewer qualms than she did about participating in sexual activities.
Herself restored the nail polish to her toenails, and attended prom with a gentlemanly acquaintance who did not have physical expectations of her. As they watched the couples on the dance floor, she found her previous assumption to be verified by the way the recently-broken-up boy and his new girl kissed and wrapped their arms around one another. Herself mused about the odd standards that the boy had held -- such a contrast between the expectation that she keep her appearance demure, and yet simultaneously be willing to offer herself sexually. It was her first glimmer of the perplexing contradictions that women sometimes face.
It's an ongoing balancing act for every woman from puberty onwards: how to look appealing and attractive without looking too sexual. The problem is, each person's definition of what is too much varies. It's difficult for a woman to predict how another person will exactly react to her appearance (assuming she is not dressing for shock value or for overt exposure of a plenitude of skin); what might be fine at one time and place, may be problematic at a different hour or location, for reasons that cannot be fully ascertained. It's not just the difference between "what may be appropriate for the dance club may not be appropriate for church" -- it's far more subtle than that.
Overt sexuality crosses a woman into taboo territory -- that of the slut, the tramp, the whore. She is judged, criticized, found to be less worthy than other women. Her motives and emotions are questioned, dismissed, or just drowned out by the noise that rises in others' heads because of the view of her physical appearance. Her personality is eclipsed by her body. And if Bad Things happen to her, it is said that it is her fault.
Society sometimes tries to reign in the Bad Things by putting the burden on women to find the proper line on which to walk (see, e.g., don't wear leggings or yoga pants). Is it fair -- or possible -- for women to be required to control others' behavior by comporting themselves a certain way? They cannot, in fact, control others. They do try, though. They spend time carefully arranging themselves to try to enhance allure without overtly displaying or affronting. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail.
There is also an internal quandary for women. If a person does not notice or comment on a woman's appearance, the woman has the satisfaction of feeling that she has value as a person regardless of her physical nature; simultaneously, though, she may also have a quiet yet pressing concern that perhaps the lack of notice or comment is indicative that she is in fact physically unattractive. I suspect that all human beings, and particularly women, want to be treated as worthy people -- but worthy attractive people.
Why do we care so much whether we are physically appealing to others? We just do. It's biology.
So what are women to do? Herself says:
All we can do is to try our hardest to sent the right message and to carefully correct misinterpretations. We attempt to be attractive without aggressively drawing attention to our physical selves. We offer ourselves physically only to those whom we feel deserve the honor. We hope for occasional affirmation of the acceptability of both our appearance and our personality -- everyone needs a little love, body and soul.
Herself and Offspring the Second visited several local museums this morning. She particularly liked this egg tempera-gold foil 15th century work, Adoration of the Shepherds, St John the Baptist, St Bartholemew (Master of the Osservanza). It's just fascinating that hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years later, we can still see the details of the faces and the tiny white bird and buildings in the distance, as well as the intricate etchings into the thin sheet of gold. Remarkable.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains solely a minuscule middle aged chihuahua and a lovely red fish named Ruth Betta Finsburg. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.