I read an article today about how rats show empathy. One such summary was provided here, where it described how rats would save other rats from drowning. Another similar article, here, was titled, "Rats will choose friendship over food."
For some reason, this made me feel sad for the rats. Perhaps we, as human beings, should rethink Things a little bit.
These rats were found here: http://petfriendsmagazine.com/nmrrratrescue.html
Herself was very ruminative today. We were considering composing a post that dissected the complexities of the melancholy which hovers like a personal storm cloud above her. Such a writing, though, would have been an arduous task, with the risk that it might increase, rather than relieve, her despondency.
We have been spared, however: this afternoon, she received an e-mail containing a picture which, while she cannot share it (for it includes a baby from whose parents she does not have permission), would expand even the Grinch's tiny cold heart.
In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The Grinch can be found all over the internet, including, for example, here:
When I don't have enough words, or when the right words are nowhere to be found, it is my hope that somehow, the touch of a hand will convey all that needs to be said. Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth. - Margaret Atwood
Herself's last day with her former employer was one year ago, on the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend. And as the year anniversary of her unmooring has arrived, so has the terrible sense of loss. On the one hand, it seems silly to grieve an employment change this way; yet on the other hand, she had started with that company even before she finished school, and before she got married. It was part and parcel of all of her adult life. So perhaps it's not so surprising that the change -- although necessary -- was so wrenching.
Last year for Memorial Day, as they had for several years beforehand, Herself and the family took a trip to Tombstone, Arizona. It has been a very pleasant trip, with an opportunity to dress up nicely, several days of not having to cook, and time spent with family and friends. Nevertheless, last year, she was too heartbroken to enjoy the experience. Tombstone was full of ghosts: the ghosts of Ottoman-shaped Dog and Ancient and Decrepit Dog, both gone within that past year, and the ghost of her previous employment. Other ghosts, small specters of sadness and despair, sensed the woe in the air and crowded in, too. A town watched over by Dementors, it was. A terrible place.
It is perhaps a relief that there is no visit to Tombstone this year. That hot, dusty, grief-imbued town will have to wait another day. Perhaps points north will bring relief. We shall see.
Always something unsettling about having a total stranger manhandle what is considered to be a fairly intimate part of one's anatomy.
This year, there was an interesting distraction: the mammography machine had a small digital gauge built into it, registering pounds. Pounds of what? (I wonder how much an individual breast weighs?) It was not a mass-related measurement, however: it was a pressure measurement. As the technician tightened the compression plate, the numbers went up, up, UP, and then stabilized.
Twenty-two pounds is a lot of pressure. "Don't move now." As if a person could move very far anyway.
The mammogram was mercifully brief, as always. Fingers crossed that we're all done for another year.
Ben Harper (and the Innocent Criminals) is on tour. Alas, he does not stop anywhere near here.
Today he released a recording of Amen Omen from the tour. We can never have enough versions of this song. It's difficult to put into words why this song is important, but it is. It will always be our favorite. Amen, omen.
I usually read her writings, but I had skipped over this one because I have been feeling withdrawn and self-protective and couldn't bring myself to expend the energy to go look at her blog entry. But then, a Facebook friend who very rarely posts put up a link to her post, and so I thought it might be important somehow. And it is.
Tonight I miss people. I miss friends who I’ve lost. I miss friends who still exist, but are too terrified of life to say hello. I understand it. I miss me too when I go missing. But I’m still here – deep down- under the shell that protects me when life gets too rough. I’m still here when my head tries to tell me I’m nothing. I’m still here under it all. And you’re here too.
You’re here even if you think no one would know if you were gone. You’re here in the hearts of people you would never suspect you had impacted. You’re here in memory and in reality and in the echo of every person you ever touched and taught. You are magnified in ways you never knew.
It is time to scrabble the way out of the funk in which we've been mired. Time to Cook Some Things.
Yesterday, Herself perused her cookbooks, and chose recipes from a set she hadn't used in a while. Then she went food shopping at the buy-in-bulk store in order to get large quantities of animal protein. Today, for the first time in well over a fortnight (during which she merely heated food to keep the family fed), she is spending time trying new things in the kitchen.
First: half of the ginormous pork tenderloin went into the big crock pot.
Second: sweet and sour pork chops on the stove.
Third, San Francisco pork chops (which appear to be a more savory variant of the sweet and sour pork chops) on the stove.
Fourth: jalapeno chicken, in the fridge to marinate.
Fifth: oven-fried chicken. In the oven, unsurprisingly.
Sixth (selected because Good Gravy, So Much Chicken): chicken piccata -- even though it was not on the shopping list, we mercifully had all the ingredients. Especially chicken. Into the small crock pot.
(Pause to put the jalapeno chicken into the oven.)
Seventh (chosen because Holy Mackerel, There's Still Some Chicken): spicy chicken chili. Chicken browned and ingredients mixed; into a freezer bag to plop into the small crock pot at a later date.
What's left? There's still the other half of the ginormous pork tenderloin, and some ground cow. The rest of the pork will be made into pulled pork in the crock pot tomorrow; no decisions have been made yet on the ground cow. There's a wee bit of salmon that will serve for the week's lunches. And there's also cow roast that will be saved until later in the week, when Offspring the Second comes home for summer break.
We have quoted Haruki Murakami a few times before (see here, and here, and here, for example). Next time we go to the bookstore, we shall look for more of his work: perhaps Sputnik Sweetheart or Kafka on the Shore, since we have already read 1Q84. We shall see.
This quotation struck us, not for ourselves, but for those we know who are in the midst of changing direction. We are here to bear witness to the storm, and we shall be here when it is over.
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.
The ladies at the office found a wee, feeble kitten in the back by the shed. Whether the kitten was abandoned by its mother, or its mother was unable to return, we do not know. The ladies brought the kitten in and put it in a cardboard box. They hoped they could salvage it. Herself took a peek into the box, and saw the minuscule kitten form, smaller even than Tiny Dog, resting limply there. So sad. Herself provided a blanket (she keeps everything in her car, just in case).
The kitten reminded us of James the guinea pig.
Ah, James. Although you did not live as long as venerable ancient cavy Moose, you nevertheless reached a respectable old age, and then slipped away as your kidneys failed. Herself still remembers how she held James, wrapped in a small blanket, as he faded; under her fingertips, she felt the slowing of his heart, the beating replaced by a fluttering, and then by an eternal quiet. Godspeed, James.
Tiny kitten. At least you are safe and warm for now. I cannot help. My heart has already broken for you.
[S]he said, pointing to the carved pictures on the walls of the temple, "In the heart of this rock there are two symbols depicting the essence of a woman's desires and revealing the hidden secrets of her soul, moving between love and sorrow -- between affection and sacrifice, between Ishtar sitting on the throne and Mary standing by the cross. The man buys glory and reputation, but the woman pays the price."
We've been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's pleasant and not terribly draining, with the plotlines generally wrapped up neatly at the end of each 40-odd-minute episode -- perfect for entertainment while using the elliptical trainer.
The costumer for the show must have had a fabulous time dressing the actors; Buffy in particular always looks fabulous and effortlessly stylish. Herself might envy the actress's petite and lithe frame just a bit; there's no way a more substantial woman could look nearly as marvelous in that wardrobe.
More than the clothes, though, Herself admires the way Buffy, Willow and Xander are portrayed as friends. They look after each other, hug each other freely, admit their failings and receive sympathy in return, and unquestioningly support one another. In one episode Herself watched recently, the three are shown watching television together, and Xander and Buffy each are braiding/playing with a small section of Willow's hair while Willow explains the complex and perplexing plot of the Indian movie they are watching. It's a lovely sort of quiet intimacy among the three of them.
It's completely unrealistic, I think. And yet, it's something that I would very much enjoy having.
(Picture found here: http://buffythevampireslayerultimate.wikia.com/wiki/Xander_Harris)
For the past two nights, Herself has had dreams about her former colleagues and her old job. The dreams were as vivid as they were mundane: she saw herself in the office building, walking down the hall and entering the doorways of their offices; they talked about routine work-related topics. It was a comforting sense of belonging and camaraderie. And then, she woke up. The realization that it has been nearly a year since the transition weighed heavily on her, and her slumbering grief awoke as well.
May is a month of change: flowers in bloom, trees sprouting, new birds and bees and life everywhere. For Herself, though, May is the herald of endings, especially the end of the school year, which has always been difficult for her. May is the time of a thousand small griefs: reminders of losses large and small, changes and deaths and movings on. Like Harry Potter needing to face the reality of another summer with the Dursleys, she must steel herself for what is to come. What is it? Why is it so difficult?
This morning, Herself and Beloved Husband went out to look for pots for the new plants. (Beloved Husband -- he of the green thumb, in contrast to Herself's accidental penchant for causing plants to perish -- has procured several new rose bushes for the yard, and it will be best to pot them rather than to try to root them in the rocky, dense dirt.) The deep blue and the rich maroon of the glazed pots were lovely. 'Tis truly a pity Herself has no plant skills.
Herself crashed into the migraine like a brick wall -- she turned to reach for a file on her desk at work, and the world suddenly tilted. Oh, no. After several ibuprofen, an antihistamine for the vertigo, a carbohydrate snack for the nausea, and three hours immobile on the couch in the dark, she's somewhat human again. She's quite glad that migraine like this doesn't hit terribly often. Awful.
While resting, Herself thought about the pre-migraine hours this morning, when she'd found herself gazing into the Void, feeling disconsolate and angry and bitter about several Things -- Things about which she might normally be a bit melancholy or frustrated, but which she has learned to accept or address. It's not the first time, she realized, that fairly intensely negative thoughts have preceded a migraine. There's a connection, she's sure.
Is that Despair part of the prodrome? Can it be prevented? (That would be good, as it's nearly as unpleasant as the migraine itself.) Or should she just realize that's what is happening and ride the wave through, into and past the migraine? Difficult to do, for feelings are not so rational. What she really needs in those moments is the comfort of a person who will listen and nod understandingly, and not judge her for crying over things that cannot be helped. She's stubborn, though, and difficult, and would never ask for such help.
Right now, she's just relieved that the migraine has mellowed to a dull roar, and that she's not nearly as close to the edge of the Void as she was earlier. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. We are hopeful.
When Herself was a small girl, she and her lovely younger sister would oftentimes receive the same gifts for holidays -- they would get identical stuffed rabbits for Easter, or the same type of doll for Christmas (although Herself's was brunette and her sister's was blond, just as they are). One year there were very nice stuffed toy bears, with the only difference being the red collar on Herself's bear and the pink bow on Sister's bear. She seems to remember some kind of reasoning along the lines of, "so you don't fight over toys." Herself doesn't remember fighting over toys with Sister, although perhaps that was because they did in fact have such similar toys. Their brother received different toys - but that must have been due to a boy/girl dividing line, such as the line that indicated in their teen years that Brother must, but Herself was not allowed to, mow the lawn. She doesn't remember fighting over toys with Brother, either.
When Herself was in grade school, she remembers not being invited to a particular girl's birthday party. Her Mother's suggestion was to similarly not invite that girl to Herself's own birthday party. Herself wanted to invite the girl anyway. She can't remember how that particular situation was resolved, even though she does remember the "tit for tat" advice.
When Herself was a young woman, navigating the difficulties of a long-distance relationship with then-boyfriend-later-to-be-Beloved Husband, they planned out their quarterly visits with one another significantly in advance. The plan in the first year was for him to make the summer trip, and then for Herself to travel to see him for fall and winter trips, so that he could attend the spring formal with her. Herself's Mother had serious misgivings about the arrangement of the trips because Herself was traveling twice in a row, even though over the course of the year both she and to-be-Beloved Husband would both make two trips. Her recollection was that Mother believed strongly that there was a significant lack of parity in the plan. Nevertheless, Herself and to-be-Beloved Husband carried out the trips as they planned. Over a quarter of a century later, it seems that all worked out well despite Mother's misgivings about inequality.
For some people, equality is paramount: if I do this for you, you must do that for me. If I give you a gift worth X dollars for Christmas, you should provide a gift for me worth X dollars. If I spend a certain amount per person for this wedding reception, each person should give a gift worth that same amount. Distance traveled, and number of trips, should be equal between two people. Everyone should get the same thing. One hand washes the other.
To a certain extent, Herself understands the theory behind this mindset. It's important not to take advantage of other people, nor to let other people take advantage of you, and keeping tabs on parity helps to assess situations and relationships.
On the other hand, though, every person is singular, both in temperament and in situation. One sibling may prefer stuffed animals, and another may enjoy dolls more. A teen who depends heavily on music to move through the world, may need higher quality earphones than another teen who only uses them occasionally. One friend may have more time and energy to travel farther than another for a meet-up. Things will never be exactly equal.
Differences are part and parcel of life. The Golden Rule is not "do unto others only exactly insofar as they do unto you." To require parity in uneven situations is a disservice to everyone involved. More dangerously, though, a rigid insistence on equality results in attachment of Strings to every act. As we wrote before, in exchanges with other individuals, one should never expect any particular return. With no strings, one need not keep a running calculation of who owes what to whom; with no strings, one is free to be grateful for all of the little things.
And so, we do what we do, not out of expectation of a particular return, but with attention to each individual in accordance with their unique needs, wants, and abilities. This is our Golden Rule. There are those who give little of the much which they have -- and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding; And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving. And is there aught you would withhold? All you have shall some day be given; Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'.
You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving." The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish. Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving? And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed? See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers... and you are all receivers... assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings; For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.
I may have mentioned before that I have a very soft spot in my heart for Kate Middleton. She is lovely: she has marvelous hair, a fabulous wardrobe, and a genuine smile. Most importantly, she always seems like an all-around pleasant and practical and thoughtful and kind person. The sort of person who is loyal and quietly helpful, and who makes others feel better about themselves.
(I know; I have no idea what she is really like, having never even met her. Still, given the grace with which she has withstood the media's cruel and intrusive spotlight, and the charm that she exudes at each and every one of her public appearances, she must be a woman with fortitude and strength of character.)
This morning, Kate was safely delivered of a baby girl. As we admire the photographs of her and her newborn daughter, we wish all the very best of health and happiness for her and her newly-expanded family.
Thank you, Kensington Palace twitter, for this lovely photo.
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.