Tiger Wrangling

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A steep grassy hillside in daylight, a long narrow sandy area below.  I was instructed by I don’t know who to get the animals into their pens now.

I doubted that I could accomplish the task in this dream, but what I notice as I sit in waking daylight is that I wasn’t afraid or overcome with doubt. It was more like, I can probably do this, I’m not sure how, but here goes.

It’s not easy wrangling white tigers when they bury themselves in the sand, only a small part of their face showing and that’s how I found him.  It’s a dream, so who knows how they they got themselves in the sand but one sprang out at me from the sand, he was only me-sized, strong and hurtful, he toothed and clawed me, long deep wounds in my arms, but I got my hand in his collar and started dragging him towards the plane.  He turned over on his back, front and back legs up, struggling and fighting with me like a stubborn dog that did not want to go in the house but I never lost grip on his wide, old, soft leather collar.  We fought and I dragged and eventually he got to his feet and I was able to get him up and inside the DC-10. Once inside, it was well-lit and there were pens ready for the critters, small affairs made of old plywood with dubious latches.

I went back out and found another white tiger hiding in the tall grass. This one was stubborn but not fightful, dull like his blue eyes, it allowed me to drag it up into the DC-10 and shove it into a lower waiting pen.

I went back out and found a bearcat, or a binturong since this dream wants to be specific. Long and black and heavy and feisty, like carrying a 40-pound ferret that wasn’t mean or terrible, just sleek and busy, nicking me with his claws as he climbed all over me.  I tucked binturong into his pen next to the first white tiger and closed another dubious latch.

The pilot came down dressed in casual blue, long sleeves and slacks, headphones hanging around his neck and he tiredly told me I had to get in my seat we’re leaving now.  We were leaving before all the pens were filled, but I knew this was it. We were headed elsewhere, a sanctuary of some sort.

I don’t know the reason I had to uproot wild and active creatures, put them in pens, and take them somewhere else. I know I wasn’t certain I could do it, and I was bloodied in the process. I wonder if those creatures are wild and free and satisfied. Few of my dreams give me the final word.

Sexual Harassment Assault Guilt Survivor #MeToo

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Big headline. Got your attention, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  Maybe because I’m not sure of anything.  Anyway. It’s provocative, I chose it for a reason: to draw attention to those who have experienced and suffer, and ask what can you do to help stop this epidemic of people who think it’s okay to touch, grab, and thrust themselves into anyone they want:

Life was lived in and around a complex of brick buildings surrounded by parking lots, grocery stores, a busy highway, a few green courtyards and parks, some way cooler than others.  Ours had a giant willow in the back, a maze of sidewalks that linked building to building, and two small concrete parks. Ours had a slide, monkeybars, a basketball hoop, and a showerhead that gave water only once in a while during the summer. It was surrounded by chain link fence, concrete benches for moms to sit on, and bushes that were full green at the top but gray and naked as they disappeared into the hard-packed earth below: perfect hiding spots, forts, space commands, and anything else we needed those bushes to be.  God it was fun watching the neighbors walk past, unbeknownst to our silent, peeking eyes in the bushes.

I was in the park when he called me over. I didn’t know who he was, but I went. It was just a short hop over the chain link fence into the high dirt hill behind the hoop hidden by a bit of brush and scrub trees.  We talked for a while.  His friend sat up on the higher part of the hill.  I was maybe ten or younger.  He was maybe 18 or more.  We talked and then we kissed.  Deeply. He was lying down and then I was lying down. I liked how it felt.  His friend clapped and said some things  like wow, I can’t believe you got her to do it. They left eventually and I hopped back into the park. I never told anyone because I didn’t think it was a big deal. Weird, but not something I should tell mom.  They never came back.

I was taught to be afraid of many things in those days, like that guy over there that mom made us cross the street to avoid because she said something wasn’t right with him.  He used to talk to himself.  She warned us about another guy who liked to come around, said he was dangerous and told us to come inside if we ever saw him, but us kids liked him.  He was older than us, a teenager really, but he was always cool.  Once he lit smoke bombs in our secret bushes and it was awesome! But he never did anything to us.  Mom taught us to fear bandoliers of fireworks smushed in the mud on the path between our house and the grocery store. She said it was dangerous, never touch it, and her word about danger was gospel.  Once I scared me and my brother to death by throwing rocks at an “Amityville Horror” billboard that was on the way to our Catholic school. I can still feel our legs running down the block and up the stairs, lungs seeking to replenish the hot fearful air we’d accumulated.

Turns out, I was taught to be afraid of all the wrong things.  To be on guard for all the wrong things.  I was taught guilt and shame for the human condition, but not how to say no to people putting their hands on me, like my boss, a woman, who loved to massage all us girls in her department. I should have stood up and told her keep your hands off me, I don’t like how this feels, but I stayed quiet because she did it to all us girls.

Danger doesn’t always come with a warning label. We have to figure it out for ourselves, and it’s hard to speak out when we realize we accepted something as normal.  There are some who will say we brought it on ourselves.  I want to tell you that you didn’t ask to be cat-called, touched, groped, assaulted, raped, physically or mentally.  I want to tell you that the world is starting to hear and believe. I want to tell you that you don’t have to speak out now, right now, if you’re not ready, but there are a lot of people who will believe you and can help.   I want to thank everyone who speaks their truth, brave in the face of unbelief and shame and pain who gave us ground to grow and walk upon.

#MeToo is the hashtag on Twitter if you want to share what happened to you. I hope the conversation will help open a blind eye from the abuse.  Thank you.

You’re Not

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I’ve heard it said or implied so many times. “You’re not (this or that) so your opinion doesn’t matter,” and they try to shut down a line of communication.  The gap between listening and speaking is widening, and I wonder if it’s too far gone to mend. I hope not.

“You’re NOT….

an American citizen

a football fan

a military spouse or veteran

a black mother

the spouse of a cop killed on duty

a gun owner

unemployed

a Jew

a woman

starving

a man

uneducated

a Muslim

a terminal patient

a widow”

So, unless I am one of those, or until I become one, it’s better I don’t waste any time thinking about it? I’ll just stand here, nodding or smiling in silence, obedient, because I’ve got no skin in the game?  I may not have had your experience, I will never claim to know what you’re going through. But at least give me a chance to ask, a chance to let you explain, a chance to tell you what I think about that and see if we can make things better somehow. How else can we share this world unless we put aside our pre-existing conditions, ask a patient in, that one of another faith, sex, and skin color, say come in, come share my world. Show me yours. Let’s heal together.  And we can disagree together, too.”

I guess it’s just easier to say “You don’t know how it feels to be me,” that old Tom Petty tune, and walk away.

 

A Little Grrl’s Palette

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Color me alive.

Once upon a time if I could make everything mine it would all be colored black and silver, the colors of heavy metal, the color of swords and shields, strength and don’t fuck with me.  Then again, if I could make everything mine it would be the black and the red.  And yet, in between all those days, the little girl of me loved Victorian decor (or kitsch, if you are so inclined) pink dangling lampshade beads, floral prints, heavy dark wood, ridiculously ornate, god I was born late, how could this same girl love the Victorian and yet crave the black and the silver?

All I know is that I refuted brown. Brown was against everything I stood for. Brown was a curse word. Brown was a daily something I could not fight against.  Brown. Sepia. Diarrhea.  At least black had magic and silver had fight and red was blood and power, but brown felt useless and undignified.  My father wore brown polyester slacks every day. I don’t know how many pairs he had, same with his socks.  He wore brown velour shirts every day, too. I don’t know if he wore his brown armor under his coveralls working for the electric company, but every time I saw him at home it was brown.  His eyes were brown like the color of our Volare station wagon and the color of my eyes, the color of coffee he let me sneak from a teaspoon.  He once told me a joke when I was young: “Why are your eyes brown? Because you’re full of shit up to here,” and he pointed to his eyebrows.  Har har har.

I’ve spent many a year shunning the color brown, the color of our carpets, the couch, Dad’s recliner, later the color of the roof, the floor, more carpet, and life itself.  I sought color in a world of brown. There has to be more to life than the color of dead grass.

I have an opportunity to create my own world right now in an apartment two stones throw from the bay. The wind is high today; it creates suction and plays with my bathroom door, but I relish the fresh air and the leaves of my plants flapping. The walls are painted dead canary, or, to be more specific, pale urine.  I wanted to make this space a nautical or maritime place, but piece by piece, my world is allowing earth tones to come in.  And you know what earth tones are, don’t you?  Brown.  I hung valances today that are silky ivory, green, burgundy, so I bought a futon cover that matches, and guess what?  The panels range from grey to cranberry to brown.  I bought two chairs from a neighbor and their cushions are patterned in earth tones with brown.  My apartment is changing from rebellious empty with a few pillows with anchors on them to a user-friendly earthy vibe.  I guess it had to change because I learned that sweat and sandy feet and blood stand out on this ivory futon cushion covered in demure Victorian roses, and I am embarrassed to let anyone sit there.  I am acquiescing to earth tones that include brown, and I struggle with the brown.  And I smile sardonically.  Life is too bloody for me to have ivory sheets, it seems, but I am learning that I am not made of shit up to here.  Brown is not the enemy and never was.

Come change with me.  It feels good.

I Double Dog Dare You To Believe

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They claim the sun rose this morning but I didn’t see it, so I do not believe.  I stood there beneath gray cotton candy clouds, moving fast, studying the horizon, but the orb that never fails to emerge hot from the wet horizon did not appear. Science and my phone app says the sun rose 10 minute ago, but why should I believe?

A day has passed and I write this piece in the dark because I like to write by laptop light. (Yes, go ahead, sing that song, you know the one.)  I like watching the night sky change clothes.  On clear nights the sky turns black to daylight in un-nameable shades.  I arose this morning when the sky was still black, not the deep space black of the void, but the black of a world filled with light filtered through clouds. The courtyard lights bathe the world in a pale orange glow. I chose not to engage the beach this morning because heavy clouds will keep me from seeing the orb. I will have to have faith that the sun did rise though I did not see it.

And now, the courtyard lights extinguish themselves one by one, but the sky in the west remains gray.  The cat lady wins the Oscar for best Cat Lady actress once again, ostentatiously farewelling her cat, chin up, wide smile, floating down the balcony to her car, getting ready to face another day.  I suppose that means the sun rose, but I didn’t see it.

A school bus pulls out of the lot next door, its roof strobe flashing brightly in the murk telling me it’s carrying another load of angels and demons. I suppose that means the sun rose, but I’m not sure I believe it.

Faith asks a lot of me. It walks hand in hand with science and superstition. My neighbors make their way down to the parking lot, hands filled with garbage bags and pizza boxes, remains of their week.  I know what I see, or so I believe.

Unsettled about Vegas but not unresponsive

Here she is, when words fail me.

Bolton Carley's BS-O-Rama

Vegas

I’ve thought about it for 4 days.  What happened in Vegas didn’t just stay in Vegas.  It affected all of us.  Maybe even more than some of the others because a lot of us have been to Vegas.  Personally, I have some great memories of Vegas and I’ve stood where they stood and that makes it even scarier, especially as a country music fan.  The word I’d use is “unsettled.”  I feel unsettled after things like this, as I’m sure most of us do.  It leaves us feeling a little out of control.  As a control freak, I hate that I can’t keep everyone in line…or maybe that’s the teacher in me.

I’ve thought about it for 4 days.  I know lots of others are thinking about it, too.  But I go to Facebook or Twitter and I see arguing and blame and opinions shouted from rooftops about…

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Feeling Cold In A Warm Sun

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The underground building and garage is labyrinthine, sharing arteries, paths, walkways like conjoined twins. Some shortcut paths we (the workers) weren’t allowed to take, those were designated for certain people only (perhaps the kind that wear heels instead black, tarry workboots.)  The building is brand new, the cement floors painted clean gray and bright yellow. It is loud and echoey in here. I’m the only woman in here, and the men aren’t nice to work with.  At my right shoulder is a man I used to work with.  He stuffed five pages of faxed copies of his records in my hand, and he’s appointed me the task to help him with pointing, grunting, and broken English.  He is Asian, his name hard to pronounce. (Mister H?)  No one wants to help him.  He follows me through the long halls that seem to lead nowhere, through bright tunnels where workers are laughing, smoking, fooling around, and definitely not helping.  He points to a name and phone number and wants me to call this man (the top man, the boss) and get Mister H help.  Most of the dream is me on a cellphone making a series of phone calls until I can get as high as “they” will let me to demand medical care for Mister H who was hurt on the job. He is out of work, no one will help him, it says he’s eligible right here on the forms, YOU signed it, what’s the problem, then?

It’s past sunrise and I awakened to a messy room.  I stand up, wobbly, because my right hip grumbles at me when my body is still for too long. I drink a cup of cold water from a Starbucks Seattle mug a friend gave me. I wonder how her night went, knowing, but still hopeful.  And then I read the news that comes from Las Vegas.

I can’t believe my eyes, and my heart cycles through broken, angry, sad, who cares, looking for fault, finding a reason, then starts all over again.  I light a sage-scented candle, something strong and clean to try and purge the sickness from my two little rooms. I’m too warm but my bare feet are cold, and it’s an October morning for sure. Another day I don’t understand and I know I’m not asking the right questions or speaking the right words. For now.  Someone posted a terrible verse from Isaiah on Twitter to the effect that god don’t care for your thoughts and prayers because your hands have blood on them.  Well okay, then.  While I wash the blood and shit and dirt from my hands, I will look for ways to be a vessel of peace, an instrument of giving, a la St. Francis.

If I close my heart, I’ve already failed.

September 30, Morning

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It’s always a gift waking an hour before sunrise.  Some mornings are rote and uninteresting, while others are a conscious running away from my bed because I cannot take another minute lying there in a void or in the presence of terrible dreams.  Waking at 2 in the morning is rarely a good thing.

I pulled on my leggings made of penguin skin, or so it seems, for it can keep out the hardest wind, the coldest morning. I pulled on flannel and a hoodie and made way for damp sand and a sun I knew wouldn’t be right where I left it.

The Corgi boys were tussling, cute piles of black and blonde fur, their dad sitting still nearby.   Crone was walking her three: Great Dane and two Vizsla.  One is pregnant and tired (or stubborn) so she leaves her Crone to come sit with me and scratch her back and her butt for a little while.  I offered to hold her leash while she walks the other two, but… she’s determined to keep her three-pack walking.  Otherwise, all eyes are on the east. We are waiting.

Well, maybe not the lobster boat (near) or the small cruise ship (far), and Mister Dante who sits on the patio, pale legs propped on a chair now because his heart surgery changed everything.  Crabs cleaned their burrows, no precipitation forecast for quite a while. There are no fishermen dancing with their nets this morning.

The sun rose not in an orb, gracefully clothed in magenta.  He was orange and fiery and misshapen through the clouds like mashed potatoes squeezed through toddler fingers. Why did I feel I needed to take my sweatshirt off, hot already? A trick of the mind.

Mister Determined has his luggage packed, and he canes his way slowly down the patio. His wife (nurse?) will be far behind, carrying the rest of their bags and they won’t be back for weeks.  I wonder, where do they go?  Meanwhile, I wonder if (or when) the cat across the way will forgive his person for letting her guest dump his orange hood on his windowsill.  Oh… she’ll pay all right.

September 29 morning

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Well, it happened again.  I stumbled into the kitchen to slurp down lukewarm water from a coffee mug on my sink, eyes half-glued shut. I pulled on whatever clothes I could find and headed down to the beach, sunglasses and a flannel shirt in place because the sun is bright and the breeze is stiff.  Interesting that the breeze is not chilling, it’s “warm” according to some.  It’s the same beach where I got pounded by three guys who don’t see anything the way I do last night, and yet we all agreed the giant, orange sun taking refuge behind that house at the end of the spit was really fucking cool.

This morning I stood on the empty beach watching the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, heading down to Puerto Rico, post Maria, escorted by a destroyer whose name I do not know.  This morning I had cauldrons full of bullshit still boiling over from yesterday, or hell, last year. I had empty pots clanging from my belt loops making empty noise, but that one particular seagull really didn’t mind. He was busy scoping me out for danger or for food.

This morning I inspected the character of the beach, her new hill, post-Maria. I lament that I do not see many of my neighbors anymore, because. That’s all anyone needs to say is “because.” You don’t need to know why he stays home or she stays home now.

And it happened again, as I walked barefoot with brimming cauldron and empty pots clanging. I stopped moving. I became still and dumb and silent in body and mind because the waves mesmerize me.  Everything drops off,  the scales from my eyes, last night’s venting in person and to the silent four walls where I rehearse my protest speeches. It all drops off and blows away and I can’t do anything but stand there and listen and stare at the waves coming in and breathe the scent of clean ocean. Okay, and side-eye the gull because I know what he wants and I think he knows we’re at an impasse. Energy comes from somewhere out there and pushes the water in and it lifts up, foamy white heads that maintain, maintain, up, ope, starting to break down, down, break, a gentle crash and a retraction. Begin again. Again. I lose time because I get lost, and I cannot begin to speak my gratitude for it.

I like being held captive and silent by the waves, and all the things she does to me.

Amen.

My Remains Ask You To Examine What Matters

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morning crickets, disorganized, a messy symphony, out of time and tune like a first grade choir. they are young and vigorous, excited, eeping out of time like i’ve never heard before and we love them, dearly love them, dabbing our eyes with pride and ready for more.

green water with long whitecaps in the bay, ambassadors to the hurricane’s arrival. white sky turned gray for days, cloud processionals form impressive figures like gray knitted blankets, then icebergs moving fast in a distilled sunset sky that dispenses piss water instead of whisky.

i hear you. i hear you all. i allowed you to take over me like some drunk uncle at the barbecue who knows better. our burgers were adequate, filled our stomachs but we really didn’t want cheese on ours and not exactly burnt on one side.  it all works out in the end because we’re family and we take what we get, even after I told you all to fuck off because i can’t take your flag-waving bullshit anymore. We’re a family. I can do better, and so can we.

my anger is constant. it simmers long and sometimes a bubble pops and you get hit with the spray of “fuck off,” a little stain on your favorite faded t-shirt or that gauzy thing you wore for the first time today.  i try to keep her in check, in the cauldron, but after 16 days, sometimes it goes critical and that nicey girl, the one you thought was so well spoken and decent and measured bursts and she… she will not forget it.  she’s been wrestling your vipers and her vipers. my unwieldy elbows knocks the cauldron over and now another job:  own the disaster. the strife. the discord, the worry, the ransom, the fear, the woman, the apple, the evil, the world. I mop up the bloody mess and wring the rags out into the cauldron to begin again. again.

then i seek to breathe. to hold. to measure. to examine and find a way to spread the peace. the love. the wonder. the beauty. the magic. the grace. the harmony. the creation.  to own and love and share that thing i cannot see that made me and made you and reach for your fingertips in our birth and in our death, the turning wheel that pricked my finger and gave me a sword to fight my own dragons.

Momma said if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.  I believe she was so right, so very right. But when you believe, you need to stand for it, all the way, not stare at your toes and be a neutral pussy.  Take a stand, make a change, have courage in your convictions, and fuck what your father thinks.  Our future isn’t about measuring mother wounds, and it isn’t about lobby money and power. It’s about people rising up and telling the world the world matters, YOU matter, everything on it matters, we can do better, and I will walk with you peacefully, barefoot, and speak for you loudly, peacefully, forcefully. Otherwise, my silence means I accept the wrongs, the ill-doings, the damage, the hurt, the shoulder-shrugging extinctions.

Be brave, my fellow humans. Be brave and be kind and be giving. Be tolerant. Be listening. Be strong. Be happy. Be comforted. Be loving, and be one. Be ready to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. Stand your ground not for us but our earth and life that we cannot yet imagine will come because our time here is already done.  The future is fragile and we can sow the seeds to make it beautiful-strong.  Put love on your tongue. It’s not impossible. We are right and good and brave as we walk barefoot through all of our dust.  Bless you for taking a knee and asking for the wisdom to discern what matters.