Veronica's Garden

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

Tag: cat picture

Read At Own Risk

I’ve been reading the Divergent series this past week. I’m a binge reader. I dive in and don’t want to stop until it’s over. You wouldn’t get off a roller coaster in the middle of a loop, sit down to lunch, and come back later, would you? About halfway through, I thought, is this book written by an evangelical Christian? And at the end, I saw that Roth’s first acknowledgement is to God. So be it. I thought Divergent was okay, kind of stupid, not as compelling as Hunger Games, but more of a love story than I’d expected, and I kind of liked that aspect. I guess I’m getting more romantic as I get older.

Because my two daughters are also reading this series now, we happened to have all three of them out at the same time, from two different libraries. So I went straight into Insurgent, and right away I was caught up. Tobias loves Tris even when she tells him what he doesn’t want to hear, makes mistakes, and breaks promises. He admires and nurtures her strength. When they work together, they’re a great team.

Whenever I find myself in the middle of a love story, I get in over my head. I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel all the feelings as if it’s my own story unfolding, my own love at stake. I worry for the safety of the lovers, and suffer their separations.

Maybe what makes the greatness of a love story is the way it inspires the reader to love. I found myself musing on how much I love my husband, and everyone, and being alive. I’m grateful that we don’t have to risk our lives protecting one another, that every day we have the opportunity to see and touch each other and live our love as we choose. This is what a great love story does: it awakens love in the reader, to manifest into your own life.

By the end of Insurgent, I was thinking, great love story, but the stupid parts of the plot might be about to be replaced by something even stupider. But still, their love was strong enough to survive. It was the kind of love that lasts a lifetime, not just through the devastation of war but also through the changes that take place in people as they go through their lives.

Now, if you intend to read Allegiant but haven’t, stop here. I’ll give you some cat pictures before the spoiler, just in case your eye accidentally strays down.

Okay. Here’s where it gets heavy. I read Allegiant in under three days. Finished it yesterday while the kids were in swimming lessons. And I was really angry at the end. I didn’t even cry, I was just angry. Why on earth did it have to end that way? There’s no reason at all. It could have been different. Who has an NDE and goes on and dies anyway? Why is that end better, or necessary, or more beautiful than staying alive? They had begun to build a foundation for a great love; they’d come so far, but it was just beginning. Is love through adulthood so unattractive it’s better to eliminate the possibility? It’s tempting to suggest some authors enjoy the sadistic power of crushing their readers’ hearts. But I don’t really think that’s the case here. And I’m trying hard not to make snarky comments about certain religions and the fetishization of sacrifice.  But really. Really.

I was out of sorts all day. I was depressed. Everything seemed pointless. I wondered if I should adjust my meds again. I tried to distract myself, get back into the real world with some facebook, but it was more full than usual with anguish over more people being shot. Just how far away are we from the violent, hopeless dystopias we read about in popular fiction? After a while I realized I was grieving. The love of Tris and Tobias had somehow become attached to something in me, and if their love couldn’t live, something in me was threatened. How did I let this happen? I guess it’s one of the risks of living and loving, and keeping your heart open, even to imaginary characters in a book.

And this, too, is what a great love story can do to you.

Read at own risk.

Kevin and Rachel

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Enantiodromes

I love enantiodromes. These are words which are their own opposites, also known as “auto-antonyms.” (Not that I have to tell you, you already knew that.) Enantiodromes often arise over time, as word meanings change with long use. Jung spoke of enantiodromia, a psychological phenomenon in which a tendency becomes so extreme that its unconscious opposite must eventually erupt. Shadow work, anyone?

One enantiodrome is oversight: it can mean carefully watching to make sure no mistakes are made; or it can be a mistake that one has carelessly failed to notice.

Another is bill. If I hand you a bill, have I just given you money, or a request to give me money?

I’ve long observed that advertising often says the opposite of the truth about a product. It was only recently that I realized that this makes advertising a fertile spawning ground for new enantiodromes. A thing of value used to be one of the highest quality, and precious; but, anymore, if you see the word value on a package at the grocery store, you know it’s probably the cheapest brand.

Original is another marketing enantiodrome. Something original is new, like an idea no one ever thought of before; it probably stands out, or above, the others. But if you see original on a food package, you know it’s the oldest flavor, and, let’s face it, the least interesting. It’s just the regular stuff, nothing special about it.

Maybe enantiodromes are a collective expression of our unconscious, emerging from the shadows to point out to us what we really want, who we really are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going. Watch for them, and ask them what message they bring.

What enantiodromes are you seeing in your world?

Toulouse and Wildfire

The venerable Toulouse with just-weaned Wildfire

Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata

It’s been quite a busy summer. I’m a personal assistant to two children, which is a job I never thought I’d be competent to perform. Early in the season, I bought a Passion Planner so I could keep it all together. I love how the planner has a place to write the focus of each week, though too many weeks all I can think of to focus on is simply getting through the week.

I had ambitious goals for this summer. I was going to do a project every month. June’s project was renovating the spa, but that has dragged on much longer than I’d hoped, and I’m thinking about coming to a stopping point and moving on to the July goal, which is to publish a story which has been waiting for a book cover for several months, and to do some more original writing. Not to mention getting caught up on both my blogs, and promote them more actively. But even scaling back my goals doesn’t get me through the days. This week I’m going with one Girl Scout troop on an overnight trip, and planning, organizing and supervising a full day event for the other troop. In between, a dear friend who lives far away will be in the midwest, and bless her, she’s going to take a day to come out to the sticks just to see us.

Keeping on top of it all is a constant challenge. I’ve tried coffee, but the extra energy seems to come with even greater propensity to flit randomly from one task to another, so I’m not sure there’s a net improvement. A little yoga and meditation are perhaps more beneficial. I saw on facebook or somewhere that some famous yogi said that everyone should meditate for at least ten minutes per day, unless one doesn’t have time, in which case, twenty minutes. So I am making the effort to prove that ten is enough for me.

Today I was doing my usual practice: after a little yoga, I cool down and end in corpse pose (savasana), in which I listen to my breath, attempting to take a full breath in and out without a thought. There’s always a thought, though, but for some reason I always think the next breath will go better, so I try again. Sometimes I do get almost to the end of the inhalation before a thought comes. Today somewhere in the middle I heard a voice asking, “Been in the dungeon?” Oh no, I haven’t been—wait a minute, who’s been in the dungeon? Who put you there, and why? It was Mariah, the little waif/saboteur with whom I had meant to make friends. But today she says I put her in the dungeon because I wanted to prove that I was in control.

Before I could figure out what to do with that, I heard a ruckus in the yard. Blue jays are known to be annoyingly loud, and from my observations this summer, I’d say they can be alarmist as well. That crow-like screech is their alarm call, as well as warning to any creature they consider a threat. When the threat is resolved, they make a pretty cuckoo-like signal. The screeching was louder and more urgent than I’d ever heard, even from blue jays, so I looked out the patio door and sure enough, there was Wildy the cat in the tall grass (mowing was one of the things I haven’t had time for this summer) playing with something gray in front of her. Damn! It’s been nearly ten years since we’ve had blue jays, since the year Wildy’s predecessor 23, (may he rest in peace) killed all the babies, one by one, as they flew the nest. I’ve regretted ever since that I didn’t keep him inside that day.

There was no time to lose, so I decided to let my pants lie where I’d left them on the ottoman and ran out in my underwear. Two adults were swooping and screeching all around, and in the middle of it, cat and fledgling were facing each other off. Not waiting to see what would happen next, I grabbed Wildy by the nape and wrapped both my arms around her as I retreated. Inside, we watched from the patio doors while the bird hopped over near the door, mom and dad screeching incessantly. (They can see us through the doors, though they don’t know that fixing the doors so they open and close is another project that hasn’t made it to the top of the list yet.) But I watched long enough to see the juvenile hop on both legs, and stretch and fold both wings, so there’s a pretty good chance the bird was uninjured. Then I closed the curtains to give the poor parents a break.

I might have looked up the symbolism of blue jay earlier in the summer, but a drama such as this is what happens when one ignores the more subtle signals. What does Ted Andrews have to say about blue jay?

“For those to whom the jay comes as a totem, it can reflect lessons in using your own power properly.”

The power comes from both the spiritual and the physical realm, as blue jay moves between worlds. “The main problem will be in dabbling in both worlds, rather than becoming a true master of both. Those with a jay as a totem usually have a tremendous amount of ability, but it can be scattered or it is often not developed any more than is necessary to get by.”

“If the jay has flown into your life, it indicates that you are moving into a time where you can begin to develop the innate royalty that is within you, or simply be a pretender to the throne. It all depends upon you. The jay has no qualms. It will teach you either direction.” Okay, jay friends, I hear the message loud and clear, but damned if I know how to live any better than I am right now.

What Brings People to Veronica’s Garden?

Stats are of passing interest on a Sunday morning when church was cancelled for a couple inches of snow. I don’t get very many search term reports anymore. I don’t know why, but I can guess anyway by what posts people are looking at.

A surrealist poem titled “Neptune Direct” is a current favorite, though I like this other Neptune one too. I think it’s probably astrology enthusiasts who find these, though some are simply searching “Neptune.”

There are still frequent views of one post about dreams about witches, but not the other one.

The entomology joke has a certain niche audience.

Wasp totem continues to be popular, though I haven’t written on wasp for a while. I have four posts, and honestly, I don’t know if I can think of anything else to say on the subject.

People also search other totems, as well as Ted Andrews. He clearly has more fans than haters, though the haters have made themselves known to me, via my stats page.

What do you like about Veronica’s Garden? What would you like more of? What brings you to a blog?

Here’s a cat picture.

Lambsquarters, Christmas Tree, Feline Birdwatching

With the Christmas tree in the patio door, Wildfire and I can watch the birds in the yard without being seen. Normally, they see me through the door and scatter. Today I got a good long look at four juncos (Junco hyemalis) and a sparrow, which I think was most likely an American tree sparrow, Spizella arborea.

Somewhere on the internet, I once saw a story about an old farmer who lamented the fact that his son, in taking over the farm, had hired someone to spray all the lambsquarters (Chenopodium album). The old man said that there had been bad years when the crops failed, so lambsquarters were all they had to eat. But they survived because of it. (In another reading of this story, we can imagine why the son, in the brash way of youth taking over from the older generation, would be inclined to destroy all lambsquarters in a violent and toxic manner.)

With this story in mind, I’ve let lambsquarters grow in my back yard. The first year or two, it was because they’re such a terrific source of nutrition. They’re really only tasty in the early spring, though I could still steam a few leaves with spinach through the summer; but we don’t actually get much overall from this so-called weed. Maybe I should be like the sensible gardeners, who take out even nutritious weeds to make space for the more desirable cultivated vegetables. But then, in winter, I saw the black-capped chickadee return day after day to munch on lambsquarters seeds, while perching on stems that poked up above the deep snow. The fantastic source of nutrition for humans is also a lifesaver for birds.

That was all the impetus I needed. I let lambsquarters have part of the vegetable patch. When I took them out in the fall, instead of tossing them into the compost, I bundled them up and tied the bundle to the leg of the treehouse. Naturally, this year I had a nice patch of lambsquarters under the treehouse, and at this very moment, four juncos and an American tree sparrow are having their way with it. Why buy birdseed when you can just let the weeds take over?

Sure, it’s a bit chilly lying here on the floor under the Christmas tree, but true birders put up with way worse conditions than this.

Happy winter, dear friends.

Interpreting Dreams, Life, and the Big Story

When I was at a point in writing my novel,  Post Rock Limestone Caryatids, that I had more behind me than in front, I had a dream that I was sort of a motherly person to a band of runaway kids. They had no one else to look after them; I did what I could. We had a bond of loyalty and mutual trust that comes of surviving difficulty together. There was a teenage boy who I felt particularly close to. He had maybe had some trouble in the past, maybe not all that serious. He had yet to demonstrate any outstanding talents or gifts. But he was a good kid, attentive, quiet, sensitive in ways that you would only notice if you were paying attention, which no one ever had, to this kid. What kind of chance did he have in life? I was going to do everything I could to help him, not just to survive, but to establish a life for himself, to create opportunities for himself to realize whatever potentials he had yet to discover, whatever dreams he might one day allow to blossom in his spirit.

Conflict arose when his abusive father re-entered his life. The father was a surly, bitter man, whose sole way of getting his needs met was to extract them from the people around him, by any means that he could. He located his son and demanded that he come home with him, because it was the son’s responsibility to provide for his father, regardless of any future sacrifices he might have to make in order to take up menial labor and start bringing in paychecks immediately. Wielding the power that only parents have, he took his son home.

I was infuriated. What a shameful twist of logic, to require the son to support the father, instead of the father nurturing and supporting the son. What an ugly, hateful way to raise a child, to thwart any potential before it had been discovered, to extract whatever monetary profit could be gleaned from the relationship. Parenting ought always to be managed with an eye to the day when the child will stretch his wings and leave the nest, to start his own life, to make a way that he owns, free to become what he will become.

But there was nothing I could do for this boy. He had chosen, uncomplaining, to follow his father, and really, what did I have to offer but some kindness and undreamed dreams? He really was a good kid. That was the end of the dream.

There’s a method of interpreting dreams in which everyone and everything in a dream is understood to be a part of the dreamer. It’s not an original idea, but I have no idea what famous psychologist or psychoanalyst presented it. I think I got it from Rosalyn Bruyere, but last time I quoted her, I made a huge gaffe, so don’t go blaming her for anything I say. In this dream, I am the mother, of course; I am the boy; but do I have to claim the father? That hateful, petty man, whose only goal in life was to get his due from other people? Oh, it makes me shiver to think that he is part of me.

Here’s how I interpret this dream. The boy was my novel in progress. I was both mother and father, encouraging, discovering, nurturing; but also wanting to make this creation of mine work for me, to bring me money. Was I willing to thwart its potential to that end? I’m not sure, but I can say that to date, it hasn’t provided any profit, and I don’t hold that against the book. If anything, it’s my fault for not nurturing it adequately, not helping it to find its wings. Don’t ask me what that would mean in practical terms; I honestly have no idea.

I read the Hunger Games trilogy this week, and I was so impressed, much more than I expected. There’s a Big Story in it, not just a dystopian teenage love triangle or a heroic warrior girl leading an army. Like life and dreams, the Big Story can be interpreted by the “I am everything and everyone” method. I haven’t untangled it all yet, but for some reason this dream inserted itself into my musings. So here it is, and tomorrow I’ll write about Hunger Games.

Wildfire dozes in the inbox while I write.

Wildfire dozes in the inbox while I write.

Monarchs On the Move

Driving on KS highway 177 this afternoon, I saw twenty-two monarch butterflies heading south, as well as half a dozen or more little flyers that passed too fast for me to be sure they were monarchs. There’s only one time I see that many flying south: fall migration.

Anecdotally, I’ve seen more monarchs this year than last. While their numbers are plummeting throughout North America, here in Chase County, native milkweeds are still abundant, so we know monarchs who hatch and live here can find plenty of their host flower.

I’ve never gotten a good shot of a monarch, so here’s a cat picture.

Kevin and Wildfire

What the Heck Is World Cat Day?

Sounds like a shameless attempt to garner page views. Just what I need, though technically, since it’s past midnight, I’ve missed it. Oh well, it’s still World Cat Day somewhere. See more cat pictures here and here.

While I was typing this, kitten Wildfire pawed the screen to add “nh” as a tag.

Do You Hear Voices?

Maybe you hear a voice speaking these words in your mind as you read them. Maybe you hear your own voice responding occasionally. Maybe a voice that you don’t identify as you jumps in to argue. It’s okay. I don’t think you’re crazy.

I once had a friend who did a stint in bed. She couldn’t sleep at night, but she couldn’t get up in the day. She couldn’t keep a job. She cried a lot. I thought, wow, she’s got a case of depression. But she went to a doctor and came back with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, because the doctor asked if she was hearing disembodied voices, and she said yes.

Now here’s where I start to get irked. I was not the first to be privy this fact, but I was definitely the first to ask, what are the voices saying? And her answer was, “I don’t know. They’re so faint I can barely hear them.” What? For that she needed anti-psychotic drugs that blew her up like a balloon? I don’t wish to disparage doctors, but for certain kinds of conditions, they are way off base.

When you or someone else hears voices with no apparent human source, there are two essential questions to ask.

1) What feelings are associated with the voices? Are they accompanied by a feeling of deep love, compassion, peace? Or do they leave you feeling anxiety, fear, agitation?

In A Course In Miracles, it is said that God is eternal, which is to say, without limit. There is no place, mind, creature, cell, atom, void, or black hole in the universe in which God is not, or which is not God. There is no separation. We are all one. Our access to Divine information and power is limited only by our belief in limitation. But the other fact we know about God (via many spiritual traditions) is that God is Love. Anything we perceive that is not infused with the beauty, compassion, and peace of Divine Love is illusion.

2) What do the voices tell you? Do they support you, help you, enable your highest purposes? Do they try to agitate you, isolate you, or convince you to do things that are morally repugnant or otherwise objectionable?

At an energy healing class, I once met a woman who told a lengthy story about going to a job interview. On the way, a voice told her to turn, then take another turn (this was before smart phones), then directed her all over town until she was hopelessly lost. Then the voice took her back to her hotel, where she went inside to call the potential employer, but the phone rang before she picked it up. Another employer was calling to offer her a better job.

The whole story always seemed kind of silly to me, and raises some questions, like, why didn’t the voice just tell her to cancel the interview and wait for a call? She could have relaxed, taken in some cable TV. But it doesn’t really matter, and she was happy, because she got the job she wanted, so ultimately the voice was helpful. A doctor could probably medicate that away, but why?

I know lots of people who regularly take advice from spirit guides. Some healers work directly with non-physical entities (including those entities called angels), who give them information about the client’s condition and how to help her/him. In some circles, no one would think twice about it if someone said s/he had heard a voice, if it was benevolent. Everyone would be concerned if the voice is manipulative, causes distress, tells you to do things you flat out believe to be wrong, or harmful to another person or yourself. This is where intuition must be tempered with reason. This is when you need help from a neutral person, if not a doctor, then find a shamanic healer, or energy healer, or spiritual teacher. If the first one doesn’t help, find someone else. If there isn’t someone near you, someone far might do distance work, or refer you to someone closer. See this article by Malidoma Some for more about different paradigms in mental health.

Events might transpire that will be very difficult to accept, painful, and threaten one’s identity or safety. This is life in three dimensions, in the physical realm, under the illusion of linear time and limitation. This is the world we live in. Every day we are alive, we have to navigate between danger and living and loving joyfully in the moment. Many, too many, of the problems we face in the world are desperately urgent, and far bigger than any of us individually. They are beyond our control, if we identify with our small selves and our fear. The compass is the heart. The heart is our compass. Look for the Divine Love within, and follow where it leads. Recognize fear, anxiety, separation, and isolation for the illusion they are. Your Divine self is bigger and more powerful than any illusion, because, in the words of my dear friend Mary Vukovic, “Love is the greatest power in the universe.”

Does Wildfire hear voices telling her to bite my toes in my sleep?

Does Wildfire hear voices telling her to bite my toes in my sleep?

“Scissor-Tailed Flycather! Killdeer!”

It seems to have become a full-on habit, to call out the names of birds I see while driving. It’s like my own personal version of Tourette’s syndrome. The kids have taken to critiquing my performance. “That wasn’t as loud as you could yell, Mama.” And most of the time they don’t catch a glimpse before we’re on down the road, though the scissor-tailed flycatcher that flew in front of the windshield yesterday gave us all a lovely view of the stripes on his tail.

I get most excited about the more interesting birds, such as the said scissor-tail, which has a relatively small range, and isn’t seen many places in the US. I’ve never found any good footage of the scissor-tail in flight, even though it is the state bird of Oklahoma.

You regulars know how fond I am of turkey vultures, which are quite common and widespread in North America. But just the other day we were talking about the return of bald eagles from near-extinction, and it occurred to me that perhaps my failure to pay attention wasn’t the only reason I never saw turkey vultures when I was growing up in Emporia, just twenty miles down the highway from where I see them every day now. Their populations were hit hard by DDT contamination, like other raptors. Their numbers have increased steadily since DDT was banned in 1972, when I was five years old. So I remain unapologetically thrilled when I see them gliding above the highway, and, besides writing poetry about turkey vultures, I do not hesitate to shout out their name when I see them from a vehicle.

The kids are also used to my shouts of “Blue heron!” and “Red-winged blackbird!” and “Franklin’s gull!” We finally got my car’s air conditioner repaired, so no one outside the vehicle is likely to hear. But if you see me driving by, look to see if I’m pointing and shouting, and maybe you’ll get to see it too, whatever it is.

I tried to shoot a scissor-tail while driving once, and the best shot I got was of my own leg. Here's a cat instead, the late Toulouse.

I tried to shoot a scissor-tail while driving once, and the best shot I got was of my own leg. Here’s a cat instead, the late Toulouse.

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