Earwig

And I didn’t know the earwig was alive until I squeezed the mop out in the sink for the second time.

It had been floating in a dirty bowl when I’d done the dishes. And I’d thought “what a terrible way to go.” Drowning. In the panic of not having air, the one thing capable of easing said panic. Monks on mountains using only breath to reach states of mind that overcome the deep miseries.

And it had seemed too late until the mop ran clean and I saw it wiggling its legs trying to get away. But seeing the hope, I scooped it up and laid it gently onto a torn piece of paper bag so that it might recover itself.

And this lady I sit for—AZ— is mostly likely in the process of OD’ing. And the worry she’s dead—or worse, not yet dead, still savable with no one knowing—is with me as I clean the floor. Waiting for some sign she’s alive. Waiting until I see some mountain zone daylight before texting her CA mom, not knowing if I even should. Saw AZ so “asleep” yesterday I almost called an ambulance. She wasn’t supposed to be there; asked me to care for her cats and I found her in her bedroom. Took care of her cats; texted her a cute video of them; texted her again later, no responses. Have been on this addiction journey for a few years with her and her wealthy California family, and Don’t know the entire story. She has a trust fund, no job, and a fraught relationship with her mom (has asked me not to contact her); three cats and a dog, a horse somewhere, copious ordered packages always piled feet high over her porch and expensive furniture tagged and still in bubble wrap in a house she never locks despite a previous break in. Goes Into rehab, comes home; relapses; attracts grifters; admitted to hospital, back home, paranoid; trust fund cut off. The last relapse I arrived to her house destroyed—to the point I couldn’t find her dog who was sitting in the mess—and writing on the walls in Sharpie asking people to find a home for a spider who’s sad and a manuscript on the south wall of her bedroom reaching up as far as her height could take it, saying “…and when I’m alive, I’m alone; and when I’m crazy, I get to be loved. But not really.”

And here, in my “own” life, I walked right into a stick with my right eye yesterday. I’m chronically sleep-deprived, fall asleep anywhere. I have no days off but still had to move residences four times in five years creating permanent residence in “lunatic fringe” and am forgetful and constantly swirling with things I have to do/finish/clean/write/tend to as I actively run in place inside the full catastrophe known as the “American Dream”. And Yet on this Sunday in August 2020 before I leave for work, I’m distracted with another’s life—could paramedics even help her when several bouts of expensive rehab couldn’t?—and Squeezing dirty water out of the strings of my mop, singing Sugar Magnolia softly to myself as I wash the house, knowing already that teams of people with love and money can’t save someone who doesn’t want it. “Sweet blossom come on under the willow,…” as I worry over who’ll take her cats (who hide for everyone but me) if she’s dead/incapacitated. Who will love the things she loved? Who will endure this burning to give some light? “Sugar magnolia, Ringin’ that blue bell…Come on out singing, I’ll walk you in the sunshine…” in this morning that is supposedly mine. “But not really.”

And I go to rinse the mop again and see that the earwig isn’t on the paper anymore. I don’t see it when I look around for it in the sink and on the floor. Did it move on its own and is alive or accidentally get knocked off?

And I don’t have any answers, though in some lights, everything that happens is an answer. We look at what feels like ours to claim and we do what we can. Which often looks like nothing except the artful arrangement of our feelings until the worry yields itself to become something else.

And my cats are in their enclosure in the cool of this early summer day. And Julia and Bug are coming over later. And Livy is sleeping a few feet away—her computer still open on the kitchen table just as it was last night when she turned in her essay for History—and as I mop, Kiki‘s shedded Siberian triple coat bunches up in little balls when the mop water hits it. The oil covering each strand repelling the water until each finds one another again like a dream come true.

“Sunshine daydream,…Going where the wind goes, Blooming like a red rose”

And I know as I sing that I can offer my worry and my time and still not help any of us arrive at a better end.

Then back at the sink once more, I rinse the mop one final time and happen to look down at the floor. And there is the earwig. As I watch, it waddles capably along the wall and suddenly veers and tucks itself beneath the fridge.

And I’m surprised and I smile, nodding my head in approval. “Holy shit. Look at you.” [Everything that happens is an answer].

And then, a bit later, I text her mom and go to work, leaving my house, and feeling better knowing there’s that earwig now safe and sound underneath the fridge.

Warrior for a gentle world

I was kept up all night by Julia’s new dog whining and feel spit out so when the young man at Jiffy Lube in the greasy jacket with no nametag gazes up at the TV while casually sipping coffee and says “Kelly Ripa looks so good for her age. What is she, like, 50?”, my irritation is a toxic brew of exhaustion and 50 year old defensiveness. Like, what exactly qualifies you, Mr. 20 Year Old Ballsac Express, to opine on the pleasing nuances of feminine aging when obviously I usually look better than this. Obviously. I was just, like, kept up all night and don’t even want to be here but my oil’s overdue and I’ve never even had a personal trainer/dietitian.

And I haven’t dreamt about mom and her husband in a long time but last night I found myself in a recurring one. In this particular one, I’m in a house with my girls and our pets and we’re moving and–standing around this almost-empty house–I suddenly knew my stepdad was coming. And like my previous recurrences of this dream, realizing he was coming brought on panic and fear, for in all iterations of this recurring dream, I’m grabbing my kids and my pets (and sometimes our foster kittens) to get out of wherever we are because my stepdad is coming there to hurt us. And in these unconscious spheres, it’s a horrible, helpless feeling, a feeling of being hunted by a foe large in size and rage, where I’m thrust into battle and being called to save from viciousness all the things I love most in this world.

And, as dreams usually work, the fear in this recurring one is based on reality. Mom got with my stepdad in ‘90–not fully divorced from dad–and not too long after (‘92) I was told I could either accept him or stop being part of her life. And during that time, I thought he was a chaotic post-divorce event as she rebuilt herself; he was an ex-con (sex offender), didnt have a job, a decorated cowboy on the rodeo circuit—a 180 from my dad who she’d been with for 20 years—so I thought he was her experimentation of self after my parents called it quits. But this was not the case and in the intervening decades, there’d been rages, screaming, silent anger– which if it wasn’t acknowledged would turn 2/…very dark–and a drastic moodiness covered up by pandering to keep him stable leading to events a la “I pushed him too far and that’s why he choked me,” punches to horses faces, convincing mom shooting my two dachshunds–and her dog Malone, among others–was an appropriate way to end their lives, etc.

And across my life cycle, I accepted, swallowed, became the powerless observer until blending together across time was the nonchalant creation of cruelty it was implied I’d just ignore. A cruelty which—after I became a single mother—loomed like PTSD to become—last night—the theatrical version. The version wherein he isn’t just coming for my mom, and me, and our former pets; he’s coming for my kids, the cat that purred on my lap this morning, and the neurologically impaired kitten I took care of yesterday. The version Wherein—in all iterations and settings of this dream— I’m doing all I can to escape but I can’t, and right up until I accept this unfortunate fact, I feel helpless and trapped then in the very next second, I’m calm and strategic and looking for the weapon I’ll use to kill him.

And at Jiffy Lube, waiting for my car—exhausted, old, and reliving— I can only just vaguely see the real emotion behind my nightscapes. The devastation and the tears I felt and shed are memories, and shadowy things I’ve since left behind to better embody love as a force for proactive helping and healing. Bad things do happen and people hurt vulnerable and precious things but I can’t live there; I live my days loving and protecting those same things.

Yet sitting under the TV, surrounded by greasy clothes, I relive shooting my stepdad in the chest, gasping as his flesh and bone exploded and splattered my face. And last night, finding an ax and strategizing how best to wield its weight so as to kill him with one strike.

What does it mean that erupting out of the spaces of my heartsickness has come not healing or love but the accepted solemnity of extreme violence?


A couple of years ago a friend sent me an mp3 file containing the testimony of a former gang member and ex-con. The young-ish man had gone before a panel of Utah politicians to try to inform them of how his life became that of a criminal, to dissect the trajectory so as to prevent other young men from following suit.

During his testimony, he talked about how he’d grown up in a violent home. His stepdad was psychologically wired to exact abuse of maximum potency and the young man detailed that this meant his stepdad learned not to spend the effort at beating the young man but rather to spend it torturing the things yge young man loved. So he’d make the boy listen while he beat the boy’s dog. Bringing the dog close enough to ensure the boy could hear, then abuse it, forcing the boy to listen as the dog yelped and cried and whimpered in fear and pain.

We start off in this world tender; as hearts that want to love and be loved, and which trust implicitly that the world wants the same. We aren’t born knowing what to do with cruelty and violence; aren’t emotionally inclined to the skill set of adapting to someone clearly lost inside themselves. So we spin events into alt-facts and create a means of empowerment to protect ourselves so that it doesn’t hurt us anymore.

We ourselves place on the menu a way to make peace with our helplessness.


That very first dream (circa 2010-2011?) is the one where I shot him in the chest. In it, my step dad wasn’t just coming for me and my girls and my animals: he was also coming for my mom. In waking life, I wanted her to get out of her situation but so many years and events had gone by that I didn’t have much hope. I’d learned you can’t make someone leave. You can’t make someone stop being cruel, you can’t make someone stop beating a helpless dog; you can’t take the rage inside someone else and nullify it without their permission.

And he was at least 7 or 8 feet away from me when I shot him. But his tissues exploded and—whether from the force of them landing on my face or from my shock and attempt to keep it from hitting me (I don’t remember)—my head was pushed backward as my mouth vocalized the gasp. I hadn’t wanted to shoot him but he’d left me no choice; and I had to kill him with the first shot because if I just hurt him he’d get up and we’d be in more danger. Sometimes when I’m alone, in my car, thinking about it, I reenact the gasp and my head flinging back. I wish I could reproduce for you what it felt like.

And this morning, in and out of my exhaustion—head resting into a Jiffy Lube window—I fell again into that dream, not fully knowing why I had it.

I stood—and stand, in all these dreams—to kill something because I want to. I create dreams in which I give myself permission to do so. And while I don’t necessarily know why and may never know, as I sat there, eyes closed, I gave all vulnerable and precious things the opportunity to feel safe and loved, slaying cruelty with an ax while waiting for my car and coming to terms with my place in the order of a gentle world.

Remember the love

Today this group is headed to the Best Friends Adoption Center.

We ended up naming them Salzburg, Linz, Wels, Vienna and Austria.  Picked up on May 8th, from Best Friends–described as “5 shy-ish kittens”–one of them got so upset on our way home, they pooped in the carrier.  We never have any real idea when we get a group what it’ll be like.  What their history in the world and with people is, how feral they are.  But typically, even if they’re “shy-ish,” hissing and pooping the first day, by the second or third in the kitten room–with the furniture and the boxes and the quiet– they’ve decided they’re safe enough.  Maybe will flee during transitions, loud noises, our movements, and toss a few side-eyes after quietly and slowly slinking up to the new canned food we’ve plopped down  but will give noticeable evidence that they are relaxing and curious.  Will gather excitedly when toys come out, skitter now and then just to remind themselves of their past, but dive back in soon after.

But not this group.  The five kittens in this group were all petrified.  And, for three of them, it actually got worse as the weeks wore on.   In spite of our efforts to elicit trust and offer them an optimal environment, it got to where Julia confessed a few weeks into it that she’d feel so depressed by the sight of kittens still in such fear of people who’ve spent weeks hoping to help them feel safe that she’d often have a difficult time going in their room to see them. It was discouraging to confront the reality that for three of these kittens, the tricks that had always worked weren’t, and that the absolute purity of calm, and love and devotion wasn’t enough to overcome whatever embedded trauma and fear they had already established in their little bodies.  When Julia admitted that, I confessed that I too had been surprised.  Best outcomes is they get back to the Best Friends Adoption Center when they’re still little–and more adoptable–in case there is a kitten surplus and they have to wait there for weeks before their family finally finds them.  Those outcomes are usually doable pretty easily but this group we just weren’t sure.

And I had a long work day in front of me–and was already exhausted from previous long days–so when I held formerly-fearful Linz to give her our pre-farewell “blessing of the fosters”—“we love you; if you need us, tell the universe to help you find us; may our love always serve to comfort you”—my tears started to flow.

Because in the short interim span between Julia’s confession and this morning came about the improbable growth that meant these kittens were ready for their new life.  That they themselves were reshaped, reformed, and anew.  And how does that happen?  I don’t really know.   I’m in this room saying goodbye and giving my blessing to kittens who a week before I knew at least three of them would be hiding behind the furniture at the adoption center to keep from being seen by potential adopters.

And last night, I’d spent some time falling into the experience of the 2018 Tony Awards.  The students of Parkland high school performed “Seasons of Love” from Rent, just a few months after the Valentine’s Day massacre at their high school.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?

Measure in love.

Remember the love.

And in the room with me were the kids of this tragedy, together on a stage, bursting the hearts of those around them with this symbolic gesture of hope and harmony.  Linz’s downy hair, and solid strong body relaxing into the trust we’ve built as I pick her up, and tenderly cradle her, telling me there is healing even when the world hurts us.  Even when we are vulnerable and wronged–traumatized and justifiably hopeless–there can still exist the part of our story in which we find our way into an arc of redemptive luminescence.  As if the universe sends us our very selves as a message of perseverance.  Compelling us to join our fellow injured on a stage and in unison make a different world together inside melodies speaking of love.

And my eyes were dripping, from love and tears and I crawl slowly over to Wels. A fluffy little man–once most frightened of all of them, in almost constant terror for many weeks–who’d somehow, suddenly, one random day, got his light switched on. Trekked across the kitten room to Julia and rubbed his head against her fingers in affection. And I raise him slowly, and kiss him slowly, closing my eyes, as I give the blessing.  I want him to know the singing.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

I want him to know that things are often hard, and moments filled with external love and safety will pass.  Want him to know (want myself to know) that when the kitten room is empty and their little ghosts run around in my memories, that though the math adds up to all of us passing at some point again into trauma, fear, and darkness, we can never unsing this beautiful moment.  Right this second is one we will always have when in the future dark times gather to make us doubt if that love was even real; when the singing to heal isn’t something we can muster, we can still never unhear being told how loved we are, or relaxing into the hands of a lady we came to trust for the quiet ways of patience, effort, concern and blessings.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?

Measure in love.

Remember the love.

And I finish, and close the door to head out for my workday, leaving the babies in their room for one last day. But with me–singing quietly to myself–I take the softness of their hair and the feeling of their relaxed bodies being held against mine, and the mysteries of healing, and the arc of an improbable story I have personally just been part of.

Spray of Diamonds

[Just popped in a Paul Simon CD, and now St Judy’s Comet rides shotgun, rolling across the skies and leaving sprays of diamonds in its wake. Music, poetry, words left out like cat food for homeless cats….it’s all part of love].

I’ve been waking up at sunrise to love like lightning shaking til it moans and rainbows in the high desert air.

For I’ve got a Nikon camera that gives me the greens of summer, and from the light across my room, follows the music seeping through,

saying. “honey take me dancing” but instead we love like lightning and sleep
In a doorway
By the bodegas and the lights

on Upper broadway


Wearing diamonds on the soles of our shoes.

And I watch the night receive the room of my day late in the evening, taking photographs about the arc of a love affair. —Paul Simon (abbr. 😌)

[Edit for Paul Simon novices: St Judy’s Comet; The Obvious Child, Hearts and Bones, Kodachrome, Late in the Evening, Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes].

Animals in order of appearance: Sadie, Cat, Lucy, Skippy, Tux, Boyfriend, Tala, Mildred, Snaggle, and Izabela. I sit for these creatures—or at least I did, pre-pandemic—and no matter how much time passes, they’ll live always in my hearts and bones.

Failures RIP

My day: 1) Shannon’s dogs won’t come out to pee in the rain so I stand outside the door and try to lure them with treats but they know they’re just milk bones *yawn*cough*not worth it* so I now feel very wet and failure;

2). I can’t get blood from Stella’s ear to figure out her insulin dosage so we sit there and she comforts me which tastes vaguely of her self-destructive victory.

3). I see a Snoop Dogg post and rally because life is too short and too long to suffer and most people don’t truly know one another anyways and if we did, there’d be no jealousy and we’d all be rooting for each other. Life is good

4). I bend over (like a dumb bitch, wtf, Amy?) and hear my 20 yo Sundance pants rip/RIP and now here’s my butt like she doesn’t even know enough to be ashamed but I’m feeling her vibe so strong that suddenly I’m transformed and I’m pretty sure I can pull off lunch at Oasis Cafe before heading home to change them.

“Cat”

 

“I’m not what you think I am. You are what you think I am.”—Unknown.

I’ve been blessed and cursed with an overactive, curious mind, swaying from science towards philosophy then beyond to where Rumi lays in that grass and the world is too full to talk about, and always I come back to “I don’t really know.”

Because it’s the only place I’m truly comfortable.

The kitty above—one I sit for, and love—is part of the social experiment known as “humanity,” an experiment in which everything has been labeled—“cat”, “dog”, “love” etc.—by the subjects of the experiment themselves in a process of proving what exactly the experiment is even while we’re in the middle of living it. Meanwhile, 90% of the known universe is matter (“dark matter”; they posit now it’s a “fluid” of negative mass to where if we pushed on it, it would move towards us) that we can’t even experience with senses or instruments, and in the last 100 years, philosophy became science and just last month, an actual visible mini-moon was discovered that had been in earth’s orbit for three years completely undetected.

And for someone not prone to taking herself seriously anyways, to walk around like the big human expert on what anything is feels ridiculous and counterproductive.

For when even the most basic physical properties are 90% unknown, tossing labels and theories like darts are akin to hitting a “target” we can’t aim for or see and only designate as such after it exposes itself.

If humanity was the one that labeled this experiment, and there’s no objective template or guide outside of ourselves then “I don’t know” shouldn’t be shameful or fearful; it should be natural and lovely. Like accepting the complexity of the universe isn’t ours to maintain, rather it’s ours to experience as the joy of a connection. Where “I don’t know” comes to mean we breathe in a continuously-evolving state of unknowingness, and moments of leaning down to a “cat” becomes “Olivia” looking into our eyes with what looks like magic, and maybe even could be.

 

Fluttering

*This video is me yesterday, in one of the events that made the day so weird. I’m talking in my best Disney princess voice and yes, it’s embarrassing but this is what I am: an embarrassing mess who talks to birds in sing song through the open screen of her bedroom window. Coincidentally, a month before, another hummingbird had flown right up to me as I was on the porch of a sit house—no h. feeder nearby—and hovered, looking at me. I wasn’t sure what it was going to do and said something like “be careful” not wanting it to fly into my face or anything but then it just fluttered for another second and flew off.

Yesterday was a weird day.

One of those days when animals look you in the face, hold your gaze and you tingle because some “thing” speaks between you. The kind of day when as part of the wordless world of Nature, you become bonded to realms of the unspoken, handfasting to life givers that exhale our sustenance as a light that seems to freeze Time.

Because in silence there is love and acceptance; in silence there is Ginger the senior cat asking to be petted after a year of avoiding you; in silence, there is Delilah the dog staring at you with a joy that grabs your cells after you made time to rehab her wading pool. And that is a “thing”.

And it’s hard to understand from a human mind for we are taken with words and certainty. But in the zone of wordless experience these moments are like the universe is speaking to you.

For in the gift of silence, every “thing” is a voice, and in the quiet wondering during magic moments its as if we’re telling the universe “I’m awake, and I can hear everything” and the universe is responding with “I know.”

[8/2018]

Rustling

I’m hiking with Oscar and Pica—two dogs I sit for—up Emigration Canyon on a deserted trail I’ve never known.

And surrounding us is rustling from bushes and in my latent hesitation, the thoughts start whistling. Is the sound large or small? advancing or fleeing? Will this be that mountain lion up the canyon they warned about, or like that time I walked right past a coyote in a front yard and only saw it once I glanced back and it was silhouetted against the front porch light?

And ahead, a lone howl where there are no houses calls out the better of pushing through on this trail I don’t know, and as we walk out of desolation, in my mind is what I’d do if something (moose, cougar, coyote…) tried to hurt the dogs. I have the will to live, my daughters, pets, a life; yet as the sun becomes a predator, I already know what I’d do if something attacked the dogs. I’d do whatever it took to save them.

And it might seem a grand gesture hollowly-filled by hypotheticals but it eased my mind to push through acceptance of death in exchange for an honorable life.

And as we make our way down the trail back towards the road, Oscar looks back to make sure I’m okay like he’s already done a dozen times and in that one gesture suddenly I’m awake enough to realize that he’d actually do the same for me.

(7/2019)

Muh Earl

Some pics belie the tenderness behind them. Because when I met introverted Earl–whose history included the passing of his former owner, the relatives for whom did not find new homes for his cats and Earl was put on the street–his eyes seemed almost too sad to overcome the emotional hesitation.
 
And as a pet sitter, everything is always temporary and short-term. For a few days, I come in, feed, stay for a bit, leave and don’t see them sometimes for a long while between their families trips. And because of this, good connections with sensitive animals who’ve experienced abandonment are challenging to manifest. Since animals become world-weary just like humans, and know better than to get attached. For although circumstances change, once we experience such a loss as Earl had the fear usually settles into even our muscles, so Earl had made his whole body part of keeping distance, revealing his skepticism and hurt as he’d let the other house cats crowd before walking off as if giving up.
 
But I understood Earl. Knew his grief. And in the justified sadness of a sweet cat someone shooed outside as if they were sweeping the floor, I was called to act. So I made time to find him each visit, to sit with him, to specifically bring him into the circle of my attention (even with his extroverted sibs crowding around) because I wanted him to know he was important to me. Wanted to make an event out of “Earl”. Came into the house hollering the refrain “Where’s muh Earl?” so that he knew right away I hadn’t forgotten between trips that he was that tender guy I wanted to see.
 
Because we’ve all looked out upon the world with sad Earl eyes, many of us coming to exist within the immovable sense of not feeling safe enough to trust the world won’t hurt us, for, in fact the world has—Purposefully, Unashamedly—until sometimes we want to even flee from this life. And while these are harsh realities I can’t erase out of existence, I didn’t want to accept that that’s all there is. And Earl didn’t either.
 
For sometimes sadness and grief seem solid as if anchoring us permanently into them. Yet from mutual loss flows a compassion and nurturance for our fellow humans and creatures until somehow, one day, we’re sitting on the couch and old man Earl suddenly climbs into our lap and nuzzles his face in our hair.
 
And there are yet mysteries to solve, but events often become bits of truth constantly discovering itself, and when sweet Earl jumped up that first day—cat hair like love floating delicately around—I think it seasoned us both in what to do with this Life. In how to stand inside the new love we weave into existence as we survive this world more powerfully within togetherness.