Veronica's Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland on writing, living, the Flint Hills, and the Post Rock Limestone Caryatids

Meeting Self In Dreams

In dreamwork, it is sometimes said that a person you meet in a dream is probably a representation of you, the dreamer, rather than the actual person. Occasionally other people play themselves in dreams, but it’s not the most likely meaning. (I wrote a poem about this once.)

To understand the significance of a person, notice the first thought you have when you think of that person. Let’s say you have a dream and Donald Trump is there. What is the first fleeting thought that comes when you think about him? It might be orange hair, or bigoted speech, or excessive use of metallic gold paint in interior design. In these cases, respectively, you might explore the significance of the color orange, or examine your thinking for ways you might be unintentionally bigoted, or look for ways in which you might be excessively ostentatious or making a show of wealth you may or may not possess.

I dreamt that G, a man I know, was making advances, but I refused him, staunchly loyal to my husband. And just as a dream person isn’t really the person, dream sex isn’t usually sex. It’s more often some kind of union, a melding, or taking in of a quality. If the dream is lucid or semi-lucid, I don’t consider it infidelity to accept such an offer. Thus it was a bit unusual for me to refuse so adamantly. What do I think of when I think of G? He operates several businesses, and he’s successful at everything. He’s honest, kind, and generous. He volunteers. His wife is just as lovely. They have a wonderful partnership and they do everything with grace. They’re so perfect it’s slightly intimidating to me. (Of course I know they’re not perfect, but for purposes of dream interpretation, we don’t need to understand the person in depth, because he isn’t himself in my dream.)

It wasn’t a stretch for me to see that G, in this dream, represents success that I find elusive in my own life. Does success want me even more than I want it? I had to chuckle when I opened my journal to record this dream, and saw the last dream I’d written in it, and forgotten, just a few days previous.

In it, I was at camp, with my longtime friend, sometime partner, M. It was the last day, and there was a program that would be presented, but we were going to skip out and imbibe illicit substances. Actually, I kind of wanted to go to the program, but I was going to loiter until the last minute, then slip in just as it started. Then I had to go to the bathroom. While I was there, I heard in the next room a camp counselor had come to find us, and was having some kind of talk with M and our other friends. When I came out of the bathroom, they were all gone, and it was too late for me to get to the program.

What’s the first thing I think of then I think of M? Without hesitation, it’s his prodigious ability to avoid responsibility. He has many other qualities, some I admire, and he’s certainly matured in the 25+ years since we dated, but the other traits aren’t what come to mind. He could disappear from a room right before jobs were assigned. He could telepathically know when someone wanted something from him, and make himself scarce for days. Avoidance was his gift.

Can you guess where this is going? Let’s just say I’ve got some major financial issues weighing on me lately. And I’m questioning myself and choices I’ve made. Am I shirking responsibility? Have I pissed away too much time? Am I patently rejecting the charmed life which is trying to get closer to me?

As Edgar Cayce used to say, “The entity is meeting self.” And thus concludes the fun part of dreamwork. Now I have to do the real work.

Scooter

Do you dream of running a race with your hands glued to a scooter?

 

Negative Space

Flyer

Because I have some financial pressures squeezing ever tighter, I designed this flyer to promote my massage therapy business. I showed it to several people for their reactions, and got one or both of these comments from every one of them: What table? and Take the text off the image of the table you’re referring to, and move it into the empty spot at the top right.

Clearly it wasn’t an effective flyer. But the idea of putting the text in what I’d intended as open, clear, negative space irked me to no end. The whole point was to show expansive, uncluttered space, like your mind when you really relax. Some people are compelled to fill every hole. Maybe I should put big arrows pointing out: This is the table you will lie on. And, This emptiness is your mind during a massage. The fact that I couldn’t communicate this idea to people who already know me, and know massage, discouraged me, and I set the flyer aside to move on to other efforts at promotion (which, incidentally, failed more pathetically than the flyer).

That was several months ago, and last week I was making a feeble attempt at decluttering the office, when this flyer rose to the top of the pile. My daughters found it and started asking questions about it. Why hadn’t I ever done anything with it? I told them that it wasn’t effective, and they agreed. They had been among those who originally critiqued it, after all. But I kept coming back to my irritation. Some people think they have to put something in every unoccupied space. If there’s a corner, they have to stick something in it. If there’s space on a shelf, they have to put something on it. (My own house has a dearth of horizontal surfaces unfilled with crap.) If there’s an open minute, they have to do something. Why can’t people just allow what is to be?

But upon further reflection, it isn’t that people do these things that is bothersome. As my twelve-year-old pointed out, some people function well that way, and they get a lot done. She suggested there is a balance to be found. She’s right. Maybe I should be more like them. I get very little done, and have no excuse when I don’t know what I did at the end of a day, or a week. Maybe I should try harder, push myself a little more.

Truly, though, I know that isn’t the answer. It doesn’t make me more effective, it just makes me unhappy. I don’t know why pushing doesn’t get things done for me, but it’s always been the case. Hence the ineffective flyer and the hours I spent designing it. Hence the promotional efforts I made after that, which took more hours and also came to nothing. I wanted to will a busy practice into being, but that’s never worked for me. Rather, I usually look back and it looks like I got what I needed, if not what I thought I wanted, and it didn’t come through effort but through allowing, choosing with intention, and accepting with gratitude what came to me. Why do I say I should be more like someone else? I know it’s not true.

I imagine people thinking I should be busier, try harder, adopt a better work ethic. They often ask me, “How is massage going? Keeping busy?” It’s what the Midwest is all about: the highest and most frequent praise people speak of anyone else is He works really hard. If I’m honest, though, I can’t think of anyone ever telling me directly that I should be different in any way. It could all be my imagination. It comes from me.

I had a vision of how things could be, of expansiveness and light, uncluttered and free of expectation, thought, or intention. Another name for this is peace. I could share that with others, but instead of receiving it, they mirrored back to me my own excess thinking, expectations, judgements, and willfulness. Isn’t it always that way, with the things that bother us most? Those are the things we don’t want to see about ourselves, that we try to push away, that keep coming back to gnaw at us until we pay attention. Hello old friend, Shadow.

I don’t know how I’m going to manage my debts. I may or may not expand my business. I will not be presented the highest praise bestowed in the Midwest. There is another statement, though, which describes me; it has yet to be elucidated. It is something about self-knowledge, higher understanding, effortless balance, peace. When I get there, I will know, and I won’t need other people to tell me.

 

Solstice Dream

“. . . the Cancer Solstice pulls us within to explore the deepest desires of our heart, while also calling us to express our feelings and visions in our wider community, finding appropriate forms and mediums through which to communicate our message.”Gray Crawford, astrologer

I was going back to school, my alma mater, Knox College. But I was going into a graduate level program in some kind of health field, something that would lead to a professional career that would build on the healing work I’ve done as a massage therapist for the last twenty years.

I met another student with whom I would be working frequently. She was young, just out of undergraduate study, and she was enthusiastic and energetic and made friends with me immediately. “So, what number would you call me?” she asked. I didn’t understand. She explained to me that it had always been her fond wish that someone would give her a numerical nickname. “So what number am I?”

How on earth could I give somebody a number? Numbers are so impersonal. “Well, what’s your favorite number?” I asked, but she was gone, leaving me puzzled and amused at the idea that somebody would actually want to be known as a number.

Looking over the curriculum, I read that some students in this program still had their Hematology textbooks, which would come in handy. Hematology? I know nothing about that. I knew many of the students in this program had come from the nursing field, but I hadn’t thought it was a requirement. I must be in way over my head. Maybe I should drop the whole thing now, before it went any farther.

But, the school had accepted me to the program. They knew my history, and clearly believed I could succeed. If they believed in me, why shouldn’t I? It would certainly be a big challenge, but I could tackle it, with determination and my natural ability to learn. I could get through this education, and graduate, and go into a serious professional job, with responsibilities and a salary, more money than I’d ever made. I could support my family.

And it would be a full time job, and I would not have time to write anymore. I would never write again. The pain was visceral, wrenching my gut, the realization that I would never be a writer again. How could I possibly have chosen this? How could I live with this choice?

Journal 2

Why I Am Not An Ally

I know I was late to the party, but the first time I heard the word ally was several months ago when I saw a conversation on facebook that was alarmingly sexist. There were several people involved whom I know in passing, and I didn’t want to go on a rant to them. Instead I went to my own page and posed this question: If you see someone say something sexist, do you speak up? When, or when not? Then, to add another dimension to the question, I added, If someone says something racist, do you speak up?

Lots of my friends were eager to jump in and say that we must always speak up against racism. Be an ally, they said. My first thought was, oh yes, I want to be an ally. I like that word.

(Interestingly, not a single person expressed concern about being an ally of women by speaking out against sexism.)

Later I thought, wait a minute. I’m half Asian, though I sometimes forget it, because I was raised by WASPS, and where I live, there aren’t Asian people so everybody just assumes I’m some kind of tan white person. But I am a person of color. Am I not? I’ve been told that Asians don’t count as a minority. I have no Asian cultural heritage, can’t say that I’ve suffered for my olive skin, except that I look ghastly in neon green. Maybe I’m just racially confused. And when people start talking about cultural appropriation, it gets worse. Which culture am I allowed? Being adopted and of mixed heritage, I’m a mess. Am I an ally? Or in need of allies? I’ve grown gradually less enthusiastic about the term.

On Mothers’ Day weekend I went with my birthmom, Barb, to the John Brown museum in Osawatomie, KS. We were joined by Barb’s (white) husband; her (white/black) daughter, my half sister A whom I met when I was 22; Barb’s best friend N (white), and her best friend’s daughter S (white/black). This is Barb’s patchwork family, some by blood and others tied just as strongly by love and choice.

We all had a nice time, but one comment S made to me stuck out in my mind. She said that there are a group of people in the city where she lives who very much want to be allies, but they don’t really know what to do, and maybe they could organize a field trip to come down to the John Brown Museum. I was trying to read a plaque at the time, so, sadly, I didn’t give her my full attention. I just said, “You mean, they should be more like John Brown?”

“Well, maybe without the violence.”

It’s taken me three weeks now to figure out what I think about that. A field trip would probably be a great idea, and fun as well, but here’s what I would like to say to S: What white people need is to feel that racism doesn’t just bring down people of color. They need to understand that the losses are their losses, and feel the pain as their own. This is true because we are all connected. We live on one planet, we breathe the same air, we drink from the same well of compassion and when we sleep, our dreams mingle in the same empathic, morphogenetic fields. When we know that, and feel it, action follows.

This is why I choose not to call myself an ally: because it bolsters the belief that race defines and separates us, that that separation leads to some of us being victims and others of us condescending to assist them, when what we really need is to break down the walls and fully feel our humanness, our pain, our love, for, on behalf of, and with others and ourselves. We must own it all. My white half is not an ally to my Asian half. I am one.

The Big You

hst_carina_ngc3372_0006

Image credit: NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team

Do you ever find yourself obsessing
over small things, because it makes
you feel big? A far bigger You
watches you with amusement:
sitting hunched in the doorway,
counting grains of sand,
never crossing the threshold.

Do you want to be big? Forget the sand,
step up, step into your Large Self.
Be as big as you already are.
Claim all the space you require,
we’ll walk together among the galaxies.
There’s a nebula I’d like you to meet.
See Her stretch beyond every imaginable
horizon of human consciousness,
transcending form, vibrating with
light and sound, pregnant
with a million stars.

Witnessing the End

Autumn Hills

We were told that there would be difficulty,
betrayals, losses, and lack.
We expected to make sacrifices for
love and worthy causes. There
would be demagogues, tyrants, and
CEOs who lacked empathy.
And there would be beauty,
in a face or in art or in nature.
And we were taught to love these things,
to be comforted by them in times of
suffering. But did anyone tell you
there would be days you would
walk the streets openly weeping,
drowning in the world and the grief
of knowing you are witnessing the end.
It’s time to say goodbye to everything,
to giraffes and orcas, the butterflies
that migrate a thousand miles to share
warmth through the winter. To the wild
places that save us. To earth not driven
to hiding from relentless attack by those
who would plunder, extract, and leave
her for dead. And leave us for dead.
Say goodbye to life not owned by profiteers.
We were advised to remember
that time isn’t linear, and we are immortal
beings of light far greater than the
speck of dust we know here now. That
all these things we love are eternal,
in some way we cannot understand.
But still here I am, immersed in
sunlight on grassland in winter,
red-tailed hawk circling overhead.
And there’s a man from a city in Japan,
standing on the Kansas prairie weeping
to discover that there is still such beauty
in the world. Say goodbye to it all, my friend.
The voracious maw won’t stop until
every last drop of water has been tainted, every
wild animal eaten or caged. Every heart
and mind given over to the demagogue
and the masked man behind him. Say
goodbye with every breath and impulse,
every moment, every truck that passes
on the highway, every word or beat or
image clamoring for attention. Goodbye with
every step, walking hip deep in tall grass,
or pounding unyielding pavement of city streets,
or wandering the bright-lit aisles of a dollar store,
openly weeping.

50 years: forties

This’ll bring us up to the present. First decade, second decade, twenties, thirties.

41. Kiran was about seventeen or eighteen months old when my Mom died. “Baba” was grandma since Rowan started to talk, and we saw Kevin’s mom frequently, so my mom became Baba Leona. A few weeks before she passed, Kiran started calling her Bona.

There was a period when Caryn Robson came over for a couple hours every week to watch the girls so I could write. I didn’t get much writing done, but knowing she would be coming every week was a lifeline. Often we would spend much of the time chatting, or I would be just getting around to putting lunch on the table when she arrived. After Mom’s funeral, the next time Caryn came over, we ended up sitting on the floor of my bedroom, Caryn behind me, releasing trigger points in my shoulders. When I started crying, she wrapped her arms around me and held me. Kiran was nearby, solemnly watching.

The next day, or maybe the day after, she said to me, “Bona died.”

“Yes. Bona died.”

“I saw Bona.”

“We saw Bona at the funeral home.”

“Bona was hugging you.”

“When was she hugging me?”

“Miss Caryn was here.”

“I was sitting on the floor and Miss Caryn was hugging me.”

“Yes. Bona was hugging you.”

“Bona was hugging me when Miss Caryn was hugging me?”

“Yes.”

“You saw Bona?”

“Yes.”

I had many more questions, but we seemed to have reached the limit of her ability to verbalize. She stopped talking then, satisfied that I’d gotten the main point, that after mom died, Kiran saw her with me, holding me in my grief.

Kiran doesn’t remember it anymore.

42. I wasn’t sure I wanted to send the kids to school, and preschool seemed like basically an ad for school. Rowan was very attached to me anyway, but because she was born in early November, she was almost four by the time the school year started. Still, I hesitated. My mother-in-law was on the preschool board, so I felt a certain amount of pressure to send her. I resisted. If she went to preschool, it would be that much harder to say no to school later. She would think of homeschooling as a deprivation.

One day Rowan was driving me crazy. Whatever I said, she ignored. Whatever I wanted her to do, she did the opposite. It went on all day, and really it had been building for a week. Clearly I had no control over this child whatsoever. Finally I’d had enough, and the words just came out of my mouth: “That’s it! You’re going to preschool. We’ll see if someone else can do any better with you than I can.” Sending a child to preschool because she was beyond my control seemed like the weakest possible reason, but I really was at my wit’s end. I couldn’t think of any other way to deal with her.

Her behavior changed immediately. Rowan started preschool a couple weeks later. She loved every minute of it, and was even disappointed when she found out it was only two mornings per week. Later I looked back and realized that it was precisely what she’d needed: to assert her individuality, to take the next step in separating from me. The words that popped out of my mouth were exactly the right ones.

43. I don’t remember what we were thinking when we planned this trip, but Mark Ferguson was getting married in Chicago, and I wanted to see my sister in upstate New York, and Niagara Falls was between the two places. When I saw it as a child, I was impressed, but as an adult, it was profoundly moving. We took an elevator deep into the earth, then walked a long tunnel to a boardwalk so we could walk right up to the edge of the falls. A little stream broke over a rock and fell onto the platform. That tiny stream was immensely powerful. This place where the water would devour the earth, were most of it not diverted before it even gets to the falls. And yet, this little bit of the remainder packed easily enough power to knock a person down. I planted my disposable sandals on the wet wood and held out my arms to open myself to the full force of the water. It was a ritual bath. It was a baptism. For days I was stunned, wondering that anyone could leave that place not knowing it is a sacred node of water energy.

As we returned to the surface, five-year-old Rowan said, “That’s the wettest I’ve ever been in my life!”

IMG_000744. I was working on the novel that would become Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. I was well into it with maybe 40,000 words. That doesn’t sound like very much now, but it was a huge struggle at the time. One day I was sitting in front of the computer, not feeling too inspired, when the phone rang. I got up to answer it, and when I came back, Toulouse was sitting on the keyboard, and the screen was blank.

Yes, the file was empty. The cat had deleted my entire novel.

Yes, I had a back-up copy. I only lost a few sentences.

45. Trying to learn and use Photoshop had always been an exercise in pulling out my own hair. I asked Kevin to help me design a cover for my book, but he bogged the project down with alternative ideas that would make the whole design much more complicated, but, in my opinion, wouldn’t improve it significantly. I decided to bite the bullet and learn Photoshop. Whenever I had a question, I googled it, a strategy Kevin often espoused. Each step took forever, but somehow I managed to create a workable design. It was an amazing achievement for me.

Later, when I tried to make a cover for another book, I found I could neither remember nor figure out how to do what I’d done before. It was as if it had never happened.

46. After a couple years of occasional puttering, I got my studio not entirely complete, but into a condition in which I could work in it. Steve Thompson did a lot of work. Without his input, I  couldn’t have gotten it done. I chose a gaudy, sunshiny yellow for the walls. Steve thought that color was totally wrong, and tried to talk me into something softer, but I ignored him. It’s a room where I’ve had days of sitting at the desk for hours, writing, revising, publishing, promoting. I go in as early as I can get there in the morning, and if I let myself, I can get lost in the work.

Costa Rica Journal47. Our trip to Costa Rica straddled my birthday. It was my second time there. The first I wished I’d journaled more; so this time I made time during the trip to write down as much as I could remember, most days. After we got home, I started blogging our experiences in this magical place, and intended to write at least one post for every day we were there. I did several, before the project faltered. But still, I think the Costa Rica Diary blog posts are some of my best writing here on Veronica’s Garden.

48. Shortly after the new year began, before the end of my term as a 48-year-old, I made these goals/resolutions for the year:
Have a working dishwasher.
Girls have their own rooms.
Publish 2 more short stories.
Have a solid draft of Witchcraft novel by year end, ready to seek an agent or self-publish.
Find my birth dad, George Mah.
Manage my health effectively for lasting wellness. (Yoga 4x/week)
Massage Kevin regularly, minimum of 12 times through the year.
Clear/organize house.
Make progress on back debt.

I published four stories, so I exceeded that goal. I’m averaging yoga twice/week these days, and seeing benefits from it. Massaged Kevin three times. As for the others, I failed every last one.

49. What I did instead of working on those goals was spend most of the year struggling with bureaucracies. The Kansas Dept. of Revenue was claiming we owed back Transient Guest Taxes from the motel we’d closed two years prior, while our health insurance premiums grew to unmanageable magnitude. Talking on the phone, navigating institutional websites, hunting through files for papers, these became my unpaid part-time job. Astrologer Kaypacha, aka Tom Lescher, said repeatedly in his weekly forecasts that 2016 would be a year of purification. Apparently, for me, purification means doing the tedious business of managing finances.

Sometimes it occurs to me, normal people do all these things all the time. I don’t know how they do it. And people who work forty hours/week, when do they do these things? Living as a normal adult continues to be my biggest struggle, my most persistent failure.

50. On my birthday, I had a wonderful massage from Lana at Southwind Health Collective in Lawrence. A few minutes into the session, she said, “I’m getting that there’s something that you’re really, really worried about. Is that right?”

I said, “Yes.”

She said, “I’m also getting the message that it’s gonna be all right.”

***

So there we go. It may be as hard for you to believe as it is for me, but I have lived fifty years. I have the memories to prove it.

50 years: thirties

Part four, a memory for every year I’ve lived. First decade, second decade, twenties. Here are my thirties.

31.The best Valentine anyone ever gave me was when Kevin (the cool bass player from last decade) surprised me by renting a car and driving from Chicago to Strong City to bring me our cats. It was a difficult time in my life, and having them with me helped me maintain my shaky sanity.

Toulouse and 23

Toulouse in the foreground, the late 23 behind him.

32. Another time he was visiting me and drove me to work at a fitness club in Emporia, then took my little ’85 Celica for the day. (All-time favorite car, stick shift.) While I was working, a big storm came up. When Kevin came to pick me up, the sky was dark and menacing. Back in Strong City, the cats were outside, so we rushed to get there and bring them safely in. The rain was so heavy, we might have waited it out in Emporia, had it not been for the cats. On the highway, visibility was severely limited. We had the radio on, and the remote reporter was talking about a barrage of hail near Saffordville Road. Before we got there, the hail pelting the car was deafening, and the reporter’s voice dissolved to static. Kevin was at the wheel. We were afraid to stop. A vehicle approaching from behind might not be able to see us before we were all dead. I kept my eye on the white line to make sure he didn’t cross it, until the hail and rain were so thick I couldn’t see the line. I couldn’t bear to think what terror and danger the cats were in.

Finally I could see the line again, then the hail was behind us. We were past Saffordville Road, in an ordinary thunderstorm at night. We got to my house a few minutes later. The cats were waiting for us on the front porch, barely wet, their luxuriant coats not the slightest bit ruffled.

33. I celebrated the birth of a new millennium at The Light Center in Baldwin City. Shortly after that, I moved back to Chicago. Kevin appreciated me and supported me, and it wasn’t clear that I made much difference to my family in Kansas. He deserved me more.

34. One of the things I did in Kansas was go to the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, the third weekend of September. Kevin went with me the second year I was there, and when September rolled around again, we decided to make the trip from Chicago. We didn’t want to leave our precious cats for any longer than we had to, so we decided to drive them to Kansas and board them with Kevin’s parents, who are animal lovers too. 23, the tabby, would suffer motion sickness in my little Celica, so we thought it kinder to rent a nicer, bigger car for his comfort. On the day we left, first thing in the morning, we got in our car to drive to the rental agency. Kevin turned on the radio and we found out that the World Trade Center had been destroyed.

We still managed to get the rental car. As we left Chicago, not yet knowing the extent of the attacks, I felt that I had what I needed, if we never came back. The cats were in carriers in the back seat, my violin and guitar were in the trunk, and we were together.

We dropped in on my Dad in assisted living in Emporia before we went to the festival. Years prior, he had been disabled by a stroke, which left him unable to speak or write. Kevin and I came into his apartment to find Dad hunched in front of the TV. When he saw me, he made a frantic noise in his throat, and held up a hand imploringly. It hit me that for two days he had been watching the nonstop coverage of the collapsing towers and their aftermath, unable to tell anyone that his daughter lived in New York City. “Melora’s okay,” I couldn’t tell him fast enough. “I talked to her. She’s okay. Sebastian’s fine. Hollis is fine.”

35. Before we married, we went to an astrologer named Bovani for a consultation. She told us that if we married in June, it should be after the 21st, because Gemini isn’t a great sign for beginning a marriage, but Cancer is much better. She said there was no doubt we were meant to be together (which we already knew), and that Kevin’s job was to keep me uplifted, while my job was to ground him. Being on the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius, he was really an Aquarian, but came in on the goat side to ensure he’d be good at getting things done. She also said that when we have sex, the angels like to watch.

36. I was thirty-six when I read The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, after Amy Carlson gave it to me for Christmas. I had a strange affinity with every character in the book, as if I could be the person that character was modeled after. They were like mirrors of my essential nature, even though they were all different from each other. The main character Chip is kind of a loser who’s never been able to get his shit together, despite high intelligence. His lack of success is a source of anxiety, and whenever confronted with failure, he looks for the nearest attractive woman and creates a fantasy about her. At one point his anxiety is particularly acute, but there’s no one he can fantasize about because he’s in Manhattan and every woman in the vicinity is thirty-six and pregnant. I wasn’t pregnant, but I felt I could be one of those women.

37. We had a contract to buy a motel in Strong City, near both of our parents. We quit our jobs, packed everything into a truck, and took our cats to Kansas to purchase our first property and start a business at the same time. Shortly before we left, we found out I was pregnant.

38. After Rowan was born, I had an incredible surge of creative energy. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I’d always been creatively stifled, but suddenly I knew I could do anything. But how long would it last? I was terrified that this newfound ability would pass, and I’d have done nothing with it, because I had a sweet little baby who needed my constant attention. I could get about thirty minutes between nursing her to sleep and having to pick her up again. So I put her in her little baby rocking chair just inside the patio screen door, and went into the back yard. There were some switches that had been trimmed off the hedge. They were mostly around three or four feet long, and flexible enough to weave together into geometric shapes, which I hung on the fence around the yard. Kevin was baffled as to why I was doing that, and I couldn’t really explain it either.

39. Rowan had night terrors. It was terrifying to me too. She would huddle up to me, stiff with fear, and bury her head in my arm. I would ask her what she was afraid of, but she was too afraid to talk.

40. Both times I was pregnant, I slept as prescribed on my left side. As my belly got bigger, cat Toulouse found my torso and belly made a nice spot to sleep on. It was comfortable for both of us.

 

50 years: twenties

Part 3 in my series to prove that my birthday this week will be my fiftieth, by presenting a memory from each year. First decade, second decade.

21. My first apartment was in downtown Galesburg, Illinois. It was a beautiful apartment with wood floors, and quaint little windows looking out into the hallway and between rooms. The building had a wide, flat roof, and there were birds that flew around over the roof at dusk. I never saw them, only heard their call, that sounded like “braak, braak.” In my mind, I thought of them as the brack birds. Many years later I learned their real name, nighthawk, probably Chordeiles minor.

22. I graduated from college in 1989. I had no idea what to do, but my parents’ house needed a fresh coat of paint, so I did it, and called it my job. Being in the town where I’d grown up had a strange way of making me feel like a kid again. I wandered around the yard, carrying paint cans and ladders and saying to myself, “I’m twenty-two,” to remind myself of my age. Not seventeen, or fourteen, or ten. “I’m twenty-two.”

23. That winter I was in Madison, Wisconsin. That was where I learned to dress for cold weather. Once there was a blizzard, but my roommate Dennis McGreevy and I very much wanted to see a band that was playing about a mile away from our apartment. The venue was a little bar which I think was called the Willy Bear. Buses weren’t running, so we put on all our clothes, double socks and three or four shirts and a couple sweaters, a wrap around my neck and a woolen shawl around my shoulders and over my face, and more. We walked to the bar through blowing snow that drifted up to our knees. There was hardly anyone else there, so we took off our excess layers and made a pile of clothes that was as tall as my hips. The band played for a dozen people, maybe, and we had a great time and danced so hard we were soaking with sweat by the time they finished. Then we put all our clothes back on, piece by piece, and went back out into the blizzard to walk home.

24. I moved back to Galesburg and ended up in an apartment on Allens Ave. The owners’ daughter lived below me, with her boyfriend and three small children. They were horrid, hateful parents, who didn’t hesitate to call their children “stupid,” or “fuckin’ asshole.” One time they went outside and the kids locked them out. The parents pounded on the door and cussed at their children to open it, while upstairs I was secretly cheering for the kids.

25. By this time I was living in Eugene, Oregon, with an anarchist who was a raging control freak. Don’t knock it, his ideology was probably the only thing that kept him from locking me up in a basement. He was a brilliant gaslighter and loved to pick verbal fights. Once we traveled with a group of people to San Francisco for a conference, which I think was organized by Food Not Bombs. When I got there, I found out that the women had organized an all-day event at a different location, and they talked most of the women into going to their event instead. It was an introduction to Model Mugging, which was a self-defense class in which the male instructors wore body armor and a helmet that looks like a beekeeper’s hood. The women had to defend ourselves in role-playing scenes by kicking the men in the crotch as hard as we could, and poking at the netting that protected their eyes. The men back at the conference were mad at us for leaving them, but that class changed my life. My nightmares of being victimized changed to nightmares in which I fiercely fought my attackers. Then I left the gaslighting anarchist. Walking away from him was the biggest achievement of my life up to then.

26. I knew some people in Chicago, and they invited me to come there when I needed a place to be. My friend Jonathan Joe told me that his girlfriend Amy Carlson was looking for an apartment and could use a roommate, so we got an apartment together with her sister Lori. Amy and I did a lot of intensive partying. Bars close at 2:00AM in Chicago, except for the ones that don’t, which are called four o’clock bars. (Not related to the flower, Mirabilis nyctaginea.) One of the four o’clock bars was the Blue Note, which was on a residential street that didn’t have buses late at night. Amy and I would leave the Blue Note at closing time, walking and eyeing the dark streets for a cab or bus. More than once the sun rose on us as we walked the full two miles home.

27. Amy got an exciting job in New York and moved away. Abbey Ripstra moved in, then, later, Mary Vukovic. Abbey was an artist I knew from Knox. Mary had a septum ring and tattoos. I though she was super cool. Mary introduced me to the music of Mazzy Star, Leonard Cohen, and Beck.

28. I only worked part time while I went to massage therapy school, so I was usually broke. But I was dating an amazingly cool bass player who waited tables, so he always had cash. Sometimes I would sheepishly ask if I could borrow five dollars for bus fare to get to school and back, and he would open his wallet and hand me a twenty.

29. The bass player and I had been living together for a while when we adopted two kittens who were left at Empty Bottle, where he worked. By the next day they were exploring the apartment, while I delightedly followed them, laughing and exclaiming with amazement, “I love you!”

30. I moved back to Kansas because I wanted someone to be closer to my aging parents. Their house was big and eerily quiet. Sometimes I would stare at the ceiling and see lines of yellow energy zigzagging around up there. If I got out my violin and played for a while, the energy would shift to purple, which I preferred.

50 years, second decade

Continuing with a memory for each year.

IMG_010311. I went to sixth grade in a school made of two buildings on opposite sides of a major street. There was a tunnel that ran under the street, but it had been closed for years. Once my teacher and the teacher from the next classroom over opened the door for me and a friend to look into the tunnel. The doorway was thick with spiderwebs, and half a dozen striped spiders skittered away when we opened it. The teacher said, “Be careful, I don’t know what brown spiders look like.” Now I know that they were wolf spiders, which most arachnologists consider to be harmless to humans. The one in the picture is carrying her babies on her back. They don’t usually look quite like that, but you can see the stripes.

12. I went to seventh grade  on the other end of the forbidden tunnel, in some mobile units set up beside the building. I took a test that determined that my interests were most like those of a computer programmer. (They had those, back then? I didn’t know of any.) My second occupational recommendation was bricklayer.

13. My mom made me go to summer orchestra. I had to get up early (!) and walk all the way to the school, carrying my violin. After an hour of playing, it was already hot for the walk home. I secretly kind of liked the playing, even the “4 Finger Club” exercises, but seriously??? Summer orchestra???

14. Oh, what a big year. First real job (Vista Drive-In), first big purchase (a new 10-speed bike, silver), first year of high school, stuff I won’t tell you about . . . In the summer before we went to high school, Michelle Wycoff told me that she didn’t have a group of people to hang out with. I said I didn’t either, so we would be one, and we were.

15. I sat next to Shelli Emery in chorale. One day I could feel the vibration of the sound through the paper sheet music I was holding as we sang. I told Shelli and she thought that was really weird, but not in a mean way.

16. There was a boy in Debate who would put Peppermint Schnapps in a bottle labeled Chloraseptic. It took a lot of spraying to get a buzz.

17. I switched from vocal music back to orchestra. We played in the pit for the musical, which was The Wizard of Oz. The music was really hard, because it was written in a key for singers, with more flats than I could count on one hand. I thought we were cool because we were allowed to perform in sweatpants and eat candy, as long as no one heard the wrappers crinkling.

18. Three weeks after I graduated from high school, I had a dream that I went to school as normal. After I’d been to a few classes, I realized I hadn’t done any school work for three weeks! I’d have to get on the ball, or I might not graduate. Then I realized I had already graduated. I tried to tell my Physics teacher, Mr. Buster, that I didn’t need to be in school, but he didn’t believe me.

19. When I came home from my first year of college, Anne Calvert introduced me to The Full Moon Cafe. We hung out there all summer. They had awesome cheesecake.

20. My sophomore roommate was Cheryl Stone (who is now Cheryl Richardson, but not the motivational speaker). She was a great roommate, and never complained about what a slob I was. Erin Legris (now Erin Beck) was in our suite, and she did complain. In a nice way.

 

 

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