Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Now I know why people join monasteries. A monastery is like a rehab program to get people off hysteria. It’s ironic how stress, anxiety, and bad feelings in general can get you to quit the mindfulness practices that are supposed to help you deal with those things. Daily life conspires to wear down mindfulness habits, it seems.

It’s so much easier to keep up good habits when you’re not challenged. And when things go bad and you fall off the wagon of meditation and so forth, that gives you one more thing to feel crummy about.

I skipped belly dance class last night because I was too busy entertaining gloom. I'm justifying it by telling myself that perhaps, in fact, my gloom needs to be fully honored, and if I suppress or ignore the gloom it will ambush me later.

This water slider is one of a tribe of water sliders living in one of the pools in the stream in Fisher Park. I love the way their shadows on the stream bottom are the shape of the dimples they make on the water and not their feet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jake's house and other photos

This is the kind of yard I'd like to have. Pesticide and fertilizer in one efficient package that also lays eggs. Not that this one can lay eggs. It's a rooster. But he does have a lady friend.

I keep going by to see my friend Jake, the owner of this chicken and this yard, but he's never home. He's got the ultimate lifestyle in many ways, as far as I'm concerned. Jake lives in the thick of town - he can walk to Jack's Corner and First Carolina Deli on Spring Garden Street. He could even walk to Bestway on Walker Avenue if he didn't mind lugging his groceries home that far.

A lot of Jake's food comes from the back of his lot. He's building a sauna to the left just out of the picture and there's a hellacious stack of firewood stacked along the fence you see - it's out of view to the right.

I can't believe the size of those chard leaves. Double click on the garden photo to enlarge it and get the full effect.

As you can see, Jake also has some chickens in his yard. They eat the bugs from the garden and provide friendly company while he's out there working. He gets a few eggs out of the deal, too.

Jake gets attached to his chickens.

Which is unfortunate, because characters like this one here keep picking them off. Nothing like rounding the fence to find a hawk standing in the remains of your favorite fowl.

But I don't think this one is the guilty party, because it lives in Fisher Park and probably lives off baby squirrels or something.

Activity was heavy in the beehive next to his front porch.

One night we were eating dinner on the porch and insomniac bees kept flying out to bounce around the porch light. Jake suddenly leaned over and said, "Hey, is there a bee on my head?"

Sure enough, there was. It was meandering around, exploring Jake's cranium, and it appeared to be too interested in the adventure to want to leave soon.

"Yes," I told Jake. He told me to take a deep breath and blow the bee off his head. At first I refused. "It'll sting you," I said. But he insisted. "If you blow really hard on it, it'll slide right off." I did as he requested. The bee didn't budge, but I saw its little hind end dip to make contact with Jake's skull. The whining commenced pretty soon after that.

These baby swallows were not feeling photogenic. They were creating a ruckus, but the minute I started taking pictures they hunkered down and got quiet. I guess it was rude of me to use a flash on them.

They live under a Wendover Avenue bridge. They're swallows, and their parents flock around with a bunch of other swallows there. They all make nests out of mud and they're feisty - they like to dive-bomb the heads of visitors.

I include this next photo because it shows the phenomenal amount of shit these birds can produce. They can make another nest out of that pile of doo.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

carrots on sticks

Well, I was planning to enjoy a few laid-back weeks of unemployment, where I would take some non-credit classes, ponder my next career move, and enjoy some hysteria-free space in which to do long-term planning and make decisions. I will (hopefully) sell my home later this week. I need to pay off some bills and begin contributing to Wyatt’s upkeep on his place, but I envisioned having enough money to buy myself some time.

Current conditions forbid any such thing. “Nay, foolish mortal,” the fates chided. “Thou shalt not leave hysteria behind.”

At the very least, I need to get a part-time job just to pay for my own health insurance. And last week, my realtor showed us a house we’d like to be able to pounce on. But that’s going to be hard if I don’t have an income. A full-time one. Quick.

Last night Wyatt and I figured out that I need to get a job making $10 an hour for the house purchase to be a viable idea, seeing as how we’ll once again have two house payments until this place sells. But after my first attempts at job searching, it looks to me that jobs either pay minimum wage or the kind of salaries I can’t get unless I return to careers I don’t want any more. This house we saw has become a torturous carrot on a stick, which is flaunting itself in a tantalizing dance just out of our reach.

My better judgment tells me this dilemma is just more devil talking. That if we bent over backwards and sacrificed more peace of mind to get that place, we’d become obsessed with redoing the bathroom or the kitchen or ripping out the carpet or any number of other things. This is a classic game that people play with their own minds. There’s always another carrot on a stick. A discussion that Roja and I had about this game is chronicled in an earlier entry here.

I would miss all the people who live in this building if we left. I love having a social life, but not if it means I’ll have to make plans and drive somewhere to see people, so neighbors under the same roof are what have maintained my social health since I left home. I need people I can just bump into and chat with, and a move to a house in a new neighborhood could lead to a lonely existence.

On the other hand, the prospective new house has a yard. One that I could do grand Permaculture experiments in. Wyatt could make himself a chipping green, too. And if we wanted to install some photovoltaic cells or replacement windows, we could, without having to take it to the homeowner’s board and wait forever while the request got bogged down in a quagmire of discussion. If we get a leak, we can either fix it or not, but it won’t involve negotiating with the upstairs resident, or insurance companies who want to haggle about who’s at fault.

In my search for better methods of conducting life, I’ve visited intentional communities like Twin Oaks, Shadowlake Village, and Earthaven. Twin Oaks is pretty much what most people think of as a commune, and Shadowlake Village is a co-housing community. Earthaven is an eco-village, a community based on principals of sustainable living. I felt really at home in those places, and still feel wistful about what it might be like to live someplace like that. But I thought no, I could never live in a situation like this, because I can’t get along with other people well enough. I don’t want to be bothered with all of those meetings and endless sessions of discussion.

So I wound up here, in this unintentional community, with people from very different backgrounds and ways of doing things. While this affords me the kind of diversity I enjoy in life, it also creates some real problems. For example, people disagree about whether or not it’s okay to let dogs shit on the lawn or leave garbage by their back doors for days on end, and that makes for lots of trouble. I wound up serving on the Homeowner’s Association board because some things were pissing me off, and I got stressed out during clashes with another board member. It’s like I joined a commune in spite of myself and without many of the benefits.

We have no process for building – wide communication, other than the fact that board meeting minutes are posted in the entryways if people want to read them. Few homeowners turn up for our annual meeting. We have no process for conflict resolution if there are hard feelings about anything. And I believe we need to have such processes for life to really be good here, but I don’t know how to go about setting something like that up. People aren’t used to such, and unless they go into a living situation with an existing commitment to a process, they won’t buy into it.

Would living in a house in a neighborhood really be much different? Either way, my peace of mind is compromised. I can't get that house out of my head.
The photo up top is of dew in a spider web strung between sprigs of juniper in a yard down the street.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bad Dreams

Ever since my last temp assignment ended, I’ve been gloomy and plagued by bad dreams.

Wednesday I dreamed I was having a phone conversation with a friend whose husband is in the hospital. He’s been sick a long time, and as soon as I picked up the phone in my dream and heard her voice I became so afraid she was going to tell me he was dead or dying that I stopped dreaming and woke up.

Thursday, I once again dreamed myself into a movie sequel. I loved the move 28 Days Later, but now I probably won’t go see 28 Weeks Later because of this dream. I was holed up in a building with a bunch of other people and zombies were outside. It was like Sean of the Dead, because I wanted to get all the people and food barricaded up on the top floor of the pub or maybe hotel where we were trapped. The people in that movie failed in thier endeavor, as I remember, but I thought, this is my dream, so I can avoid their mistakes.

I was trying to scheme ways to make our position more secure because I was afraid the zombies would come through the windows or find some other way in, and I was frustrated with the other people because they kept going outside. There were some foxes outside, too, and was pretty sure they had the zombie disease because they were out in broad daylight and not afraid of people. Sure enough I went out on a porch to tell somebody to come back in and I got scratched on the hand by one of the zombie foxes. Immediately, my hand swelled up tight as a basketball. I thought, shit, now I’m going to turn on these folks just like the character Sex Machine did in From Dusk til Dawn. I resolved not to make the mistake he did – I told everybody I thought I was infected and instructed them to shoot me the minute I started to change. But nobody seemed too worried. I, however, was stressed out enough to wake up.

On Friday I did have a real conversation with the friend whose husband is in the hospital, and learned that while he did almost die, he’s doing much better now. I was so relieved. If I hadn’t chickened out on those dreams and had stuck with the whole storyline, they might have turned out okay. I’m wondering if this has a larger meaning, something that applies to my waking life.
If I can choose to wake up because I'm so upset by what's happening in dreams, why can't I just dream a happy ending?

I took the above photo at Esalen when I was there a few years ago. I've run out of recent, local pictures, but I hope to stock up this week.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Devil Talking

I’ve been so sad and blue
Ever since you bid the Prozac fairy adieu

Every time my mother speaks to me here lately, I hear the voice of Satan. She needs a visit from the Prozac fairy, but she’s rolled up the welcome mat for antidepressants and thrown it in the Dumpster. Now that she’s given her prescription up, she’s making me need pharmaceutical help.

It’s put me in quite a dilemma. I used to be a very anti-Western medication person. Now that I’ve spent some time as a teacher, however, I love Ritalin and Adderall. Many’s the day I lived in fear that this or that child would not take his/her medication that morning. I respect parents who want to try something different for their children, but it sure does make life chaotic in the classroom when somebody’s frontal lobe is not on. And now that my mother has gone from being a delightful good old girl to a person who shows up unannounced and ruins my weekend, I think she should be required by law to go back on Prozac.

Because the demon is communicable. “Baby, she sends you into orbit,” Wyatt told me last night after patiently hearing me rant about my mother’s latest visit. Men can’t understand the way certain statements or insinuations from their mothers can stick to women like Napalm.

When my mom was on Prozac, she always called before she came by. She was fun. I liked taking her places and introducing her to my friends. But now, it’s almost as if she’s grown radar to detect the times when Wyatt and I least need visitors, and she executes a pop-in. Her social skills are suffering. At a cookout here it came up in conversation that one of the people in attendance was from Columbia. My mother asked the woman if any of her relatives had been shot in the drug war. When I told her that I’d found a buyer for my condo, which I considered good news because I had moved in with my husband and no longer needed it and its mortgage payment every month, she started to sniffle and called the news sad.

I thought my mom had exorcised all her demons during the time that she was medicated because she went to great lengths to do so. I’m all about non-pharmaceutical, alternative therapy methods (like EdxTM, Energy Medicine, EMDR, and Emotional Freedom Techniques). I believe they’ve helped me a lot, and assumed they had helped her too. But the way my mom has reverted fills me with dismay – maybe it was all snake oil after all. Sunday she really went to my ass right after I’d given her a Reflexology treatment and did a Blue Medicine Buddha visualization for her.

I feel partly to blame for my mother’s deteriorating mental health. Earlier this year I quit my full-time teaching job and began temping. Apparently she believes I am not worried enough about my situation, and she wants to worry about it for me and encourage me to worry more. What she’s worked up about most recently is, she wants me to take another teaching job. One that’s about a 45 minute drive away for me, and would put me in close proximity to her home. I would also be working with her best friend, if I took said job. In other words, I might as well just crawl back into the womb. Is anybody else about to have an anxiety attack thinking about those conditions?

I am scared about the future, but getting more scared almost never makes scared people make better decisions. Hysteria is not a good place to be making decisions from. But hysteria always wants to be surrounded by more hysteria.

I’m really disappointed about the fact that my mother’s ability to be cool was so dependent upon a drug created and marketed by a pharmaceutical company. I’m also disappointed that I haven’t found alternative treatments for my own asthma – when I was working full time I didn’t have time to visit an acupuncturist or cook all the time to support a diet free of all my food intolerances, and now I can’t afford to.

Maybe I should just go back to work in the school system, eat carb and sugar-laden cafeteria food every day, forget about herbal remedies and Permaculture, decide that Yoga and Belly Dancing are foolish wastes of my time, get on some Prozac myself and watch TV until bedtime every night.

But I’ll be damned if I do. I guess I have to respect my mother’s choices too.
The crepe myrtle blossoms at Ham's Lakeside are looking good, aren't they?