I have undertaken a Task. It is a Task that will require a great deal of time and effort; there is no guarantee of success; and I feel, at the moment, overwhelmed by what is before me.
Why, in view of all of this, have I undertaken The Task at all? The answer to that is multifaceted and complex; the nutshell version is that it appears, in the long run, to be the Best Thing To Do.
(Best for whom? For others? Certainly. For me? Possibly. Perhaps I will only be able to fully comprehend the benefit of The Task to me, once The Task is behind me. We shall see.)
All being said: there is a touch of fear, here.
I went out for a walk this evening, after tackling my self-imposed allotment of time for The Task. I was feeling quite out of sorts; I am still adjusting to the daily requirements of The Task, and right now, all I can see is the enormity of the challenge before me. There was a thunderstorm brewing in the distance, with an occasional flash of lightning that lit up the dark of the night, a bit of rumbling thunder, and the beginnings of raindrops.
I turned a corner and saw, running up the street ahead, two large shapes. I stopped; if they were dogs on the loose in the neighborhood, I would need to turn around immediately if they seemed dangerous. It took me a moment or two before I realized:
They crossed the street and entered a vacant lot. I approached on the opposite side of the street, not wanting to frighten them. We looked at each other for a while. Then the rain began in earnest, and so I put up my umbrella and continued down the street.
I do not believe in omens or portents. It was just deer. Nevertheless, it was deer, and was a lovely moment, for which I am thankful.
If you look carefully, you can see the briefest outline of one of the deer.
The below "ad" appeared in my Facebook feed recently.
What fresh hell?
As far as I can determine, this appears to be an advertisement for an article of clothing. Shorts, apparently. Except they are merely a FRAGMENT of shorts, designed to be worn with... one's undergarments showing? Really? This is not clothing.
(I will pause and reflect that the model in question has lovely flat and unscarred abdomen. Can I purchase one of those somewhere? Even if I could, though, I still would not wear those "shorts".)
Here were are again at the beginning of summer, when the teen girls occupy all of the stalls in the local Kohl's dressing room, snapping pictures of one another in the various bathing suits they are trying on, and overweight middle-aged women such as I slink in between them, murmuring a polite "excuse me" that is promptly mocked by the little sisters of the teens, to try on some boring skin-covering garment, and to wonder whether it is the terrible light of the dressing room, or merely age, that makes oneself so... unappealing.
Then the ads -- oh, the ads -- like the one below, interspersed with ads for products to reduce chest wrinkles or to tame the flabbiness of one's upper arms. Be thin! Be wrinkle free! Be smooth and youthful! Eat kale! 101 smoothies, 102 workouts for that curvaceous behind.
I am trying. There's nearly half a century of life on this body. I fail, but I will keep on trying.
Realistic goals. And realistic clothing. That's the best I can do, I think.
Beloved Husband's parents have tortoises in their yard. (I believe they are tortoises, that is, though we generally refer to them as turtles - I perused the interwebs and learned a bit about the differences among tortoises, turtles, and terrapins. But I digress.)
There is a new wee one. It is over a month old now, which gives you an idea of how much tinier it was when it was first found. My mother-in-law tends to this minuscule creature lovingly, as she does all living beings (be they animal or vegetable) in her path. She's a lovely woman, and a shining example of How I Would Like To Be.
I am once more listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks. There is nothing quite like the soothing intonation of Jim Dale's voice, the epithets and familiar phrasings of the works, the satisfactory "love and friendship always conquer evil" endings. Even as I wander in and out of earshot of the speaker while I clean the house, I know exactly what happens, and when, and can enjoy the stories, every time.
The plots of books do contain a few irritating quirks: the perpetual risk of Hogwarts being shut down; the fear of being expelled; the very black-and-white evil of those from Slytherin house (with the exception of Snape, who ultimately is revealed to be a flawed hero). These can usually be overlooked in view of the satisfactory nature of the books as a whole.
Today, however, a new annoyance struck me today for the first time: Harry sometimes has an astonishing lack of faith.
I listened to the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets while cleaning the kitchen this morning. In the first chapter, Harry has not heard from his friends for his first month at the Dursleys, and loneliness has crept in:
He gazed miserably into the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn't seem to be missing him at all.
Oh, Harry. You and Ron and Hermione have been through so much together already. Why do you think they would abandon you? Can you not have faith in them, and think about the logical reasons for their silence? I find myself impatient with your lack of trust, and cannot understand why you do not reason that there are other explanations besides they don't care about you, for your not hearing from them. You are annoying, Harry.
And yet: I think I may be judging Harry far too harshly.
The truth of the matter is that for so many years of his childhood, Harry did not have anyone reliable in his life: no adult upon whom he could depend, and -- given how his peers favored Dudley, out of fear or as allies -- no friend who stuck by him. No one to listen, to provide silent encouragement through their presence, to reassure him when things were strange or difficult. He was, so often, very much Alone.
It is no wonder, then, that Harry is so easily despondent.
To have faithful, helpful friends in Ron and Hermione must have been a miracle almost beyond miracles for Harry: he no doubt could hardly believe his good fortune to know that another person enjoyed his company, would count on him in times of trouble, and would be there for him even in the face of peril.
As he spends summers with the Dursleys, he once more questions his own worth and his place in the world (whether the magical, or the non-magical, world). It must be very easy for him to believe that previous signs of caring and concern from his friends were inconsequential and not of the same depth as his feelings towards them. And for him to convince himself that the bonds of friendship were one-sided, in his head alone. And for him to assume that he is, despite momentary feelings to the contrary, still very much Alone.
There is no one who can reassure Harry. He has to trust, to have faith. It will be hard for him to learn to do so; and it will be even harder, perhaps, to unlearn the habits of self-doubt and despair that he has internalized. He will need time. Fortunately, there are seven books' worth of time for him. He will succeed, we know.
I am going to listen to the audiobooks slightly differently from now on -- with perhaps a bit more sympathy for Harry's sometimes perplexing reactions. I think I understand a little better, now.
Eons and eons ago, Offspring the Second had a book of poetry about insects: Insectlopedia. It was a favorite.
----- I am the dragon, The demon of skies. Behold my bold Enormous eyes. I sweep I swoop I terrorize. For lunch I munch On flies and bees. Mosquitoes with My feet I seize. I am the dragon: Down on your knees!
Douglas Florian, Insectlopedia
I am in possession of several exquisite photographs. Let us find the right words to go with each one.
Today: the flower.
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower, But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee. For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life, And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love, And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.
I find myself struggling with writer's block. I think that perhaps I used up too many words elsewhere this past week.
Sometimes when attempting to explain things close to one's heart, it is quite difficult to find the right words. Perhaps such thoughts cannot be put adequately into words; or perhaps, to see or hear them actually put into words is to realize that they are too transparent, too revealing. The desire to self-protect is strong; what should one do when that desire is in contradiction with a burning need for comfort, for reassurance? Oh, the terror of appearing needy, emotional, inadequate. Weak. Thoroughly imperfect.
Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it. - Swedish proverb
If I had the time, right now I would go for a walk in the forest somewhere. The trees listen understand the wordless whisperings of our hearts, and provide consolation.
What started as a whisper, Slowly turned in to a scream. Searching for an answer Where the question is unseen. I don't know where you came from And I don't know where you've gone. Old friends become old strangers Between darkness and the dawn
Sometimes, one must sit back and remain silent while others make Decisions. It's not easy to do when one has Thoughts and Opinions -- and especially when those Thoughts and Opinions are accompanied by (and perhaps colored by) Feelings. It becomes more difficult still, when others nearby have different, and perhaps conflicting, Thoughts and Opinions.
Without full information, and without being in the Decision-maker's shoes, it is in essence impossible to imagine making a particular Decision oneself. And thus, silence is the best option. Ultimately, it is the Decision-maker who is important, and not the Decision itself; and so we wait, quietly, to see what must happen. Never stop having doubts. If you ever do, it will be because you’ve stopped moving forward. On the other hand, you must be careful never to allow doubt to paralyze you. Always take the decisions you need to take, even if you’re not sure you’re doing the right thing. You’ll never go wrong if, when you make a decision, you keep in mind: “the Devil is in the detail.” Remember that proverb and you’ll always be able to turn a wrong decision into a right one.
One would think that the knowledge that May always brings transitions would be enough of a reminder to prepare myself, yet each year I am newly caught off guard. Perhaps someday I will learn.
(Oh, to be the kind of person who adapts easily to change. Alas, that is not to be.)
May signals the beginning-of-the-end of the school year; there are extra activities, extra expenses, and transitions that are never easy. There are echoes of other changes, too, that are always at the periphery of May. Facebook reminds us of some of those: today in "On This Day," there was a flashback to the public announcement of the Unmooring, as well as a post regarding the diagnosis of ottoman-shaped dog's serious (and ultimately fatal) illness. Alas, again.
Twenty years ago in May, we were preparing to move to this desert land. That seems an eternity ago.
I have woven all those events into the fabric of my life, and do not dwell on them; yet occasionally -- and especially in May -- I find myself running my fingers across that part of the tapestry.
This May has additional wrinkles: there are looming future events that must be planned for and executed. I have been avoiding even thinking about many of them, but cannot do so for much longer. Alas, yet again. I must summon up the courage and meet things head-on.
Oddly, though, and for the first time in any May, I am more reconciled with the idea of change. I cannot stop the march of What Happens. And so, I will ride the wave and see what the future brings.
As long as there is a bit of hiking on occasion with my Safe People, it will all work out OK.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you win then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
We should learn from flowers, earthly stars which spend their entire lives shining, shining and growing despite all the difficulties they encounter. They know how to listen and understand the whispers of time, for it is an eternal friend that teaches the importance of friendship and sparkling hope. ― Nur Bedeir
While we were out camping, Offspring the Third told me that his girlfriend had sent him a text to tell him she missed him (aaaah, young love), and that he had replied to encourage her to go look at the moon, because he was looking at the same moon, and it would thus seem as if they were not so far apart. That was very sweet, I commented. (Perhaps, in our more jaded moments, a bit sappy -- but yet, heartfelt in the way that first forays into teenage romance can be.)
Besides: he has a point.
I love the moon -- her waxing and waning, as all women do; her comforting presence in the cool and the dark of the night. She is lovely. Changing yet consistent. And eternal, watching without judgment, and providing company when the world is still and one feels most alone.
Perhaps, in our individual solitudes under the moon, we are, in fact, together in our shared humanity.
Tiny Dog did not care for camping much. She was on High Alert the entire weekend, after barking at passers-by and rustling leaves and questionable twigs -- not to mention incessant snapping at every flying insect. (I tried to get some footage of her insect-hunting; half of the time, she would stop whenever I turned on the camera, and the other half of the time, Beloved Husband and Cherished Friend happened to be talking in the background. Once I reviewed the footage, I realized that I cannot post it, as their voices, like their faces, are private. Alas. You will just have to use your imagination for the incessant fly-snapping.)
By the time we were ready to go home, poor Tiny was exhausted. She climbed up to her favorite perch in the car -- on my shoulders -- and promptly fell asleep for the entire two-and-a-half-hour drive.
I love pine cones. They are fascinating.
While we were out on the hiking path this past weekend, I spotted a pine cone that had fallen. Instead of joining the other myriad cones littering the forest floor, this particular cone was instead caught by young oak sapling. It was a striking contrast -- the brown of the cone, the broad green of the leaves. Soothing, in some undefinable way.
Whenever I visit this particular campground, I think about collecting a giant pile of pine cones. I have never done it -- perhaps it is just the concept of a giant pile of pine cones that appeals to me. Because pine cones. So many pine cones.
Offspring the Third appeared to thoroughly enjoy exploring the woods and stream while we were out camping this past weekend. He found something he thought was particularly interesting -- a desiccated elk carcass --- and took me and Beloved Husband to see.
While he led the way through the woods, it was clear to me that he was in his element: he described the places where he had been previously and the best ways to cross the stream; he pointed out a striking, giant dead tree; and talked about the spiderwebs over the water and the quantity and types of spiders.
When we reached the point where we needed to cross the stream, he went first, stepping confidently across the flowing water using the narrow path of rocks. He paused while I followed him to check to ensure I had solid footing, and held out his hand to help me make the last jump back onto the bank.
It was genuinely touching. I did not feel self-conscious about taking his hand for the tricky parts, because he was so matter-of-fact and unassuming about his assistance -- a rare gift. I do not like to ask for help; and behold, because of his thoughtfulness, I did not need to do so. Yet still, I did receive that small piece of help I needed. It was lovely.
Sometimes, I still think of Offspring the Third as being very young. Yet seeing his confidence in the woods, and the way he explained the all that he had learned from his exploration and and how he patiently led us along his chosen path, I was aware more than ever that the last of my Offspring is now a young man, and that soon enough, his path will extend farther into the world than I have ever imagined.
Oh, Offspring the Third. I wish for you, that you and your kind heart will have have many, many enjoyable adventures in the years to come. Perhaps, if I am lucky, you will show me some more of your paths in the future.
We escaped briefly for the weekend: Beloved Husband, Offspring the Third, and I met up with Cherished Friend at a familiar, peaceful campground. Just what we needed.
I could see the stress and strain of Worldly Cares gradually fall away from the three menfolk. It was nice to see. They probably could have used more time away; this time, though, just the weekend would have to do.
I immersed myself in the quiet and the trees and read a somewhat weird but engrossing book. I could have used more time away, too.
Nevertheless: what a relief to be away from The Daily Grind.
Ah, May. The month of change -- plants sprout, school winds to a close, and we hear echoes of the anniversary of the Unmooring. New pressures and requirements and projects (which we cannot discuss in detail) have emerged, and must be tackled. I confess that I undertake them somewhat unwillingly, even if they appear to be for the best.
For the best.
For whose best?
What is best?
Depends on one's point of view, I suppose.
The needs of the many in the household outweigh the needs of the one. I am the one; and so I carry a heavy load: a disproportionate share of the worry, of the compromise, of the listening and the reassuring and the encouraging and the helping and the doing.
I am overextended.
I want to crawl within myself, to hide.
All I can do is persevere, on this beautiful May Day.
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.