Friday, May 13, 2022

DOWNWIND TO DOWNFALL

Himmy in my flower pot last month
Himmy, the stray cat I’ve been taking care of since PQ wisely, it seems, moved to the next world, appears to be coming to the final stage of his struggle with an upper respiratory disease that has been unresponsive to medication. I thought when summer came, he would get better, but warm weather, laced with wind and smoke from the forest fire on the east side of our mountains has made it almost impossible for him to breath. Should I take him to the vet and have him put down, since this is only one of his problems and it has resisted treatment, or should I let him fade away naturally, since he doesn’t seem to be in pain? I’ve grown fond of him, and I can tell he was once a beauty. But he and I can’t have a long-term relationship, and the no-kill kennel, Stray Hearts, won’t take him with his medical problems. Going to the vet earlier was a traumatic ordeal for both of us, so which is the more humane approach to his problem? Care taking and problem solving is in my DNA. Now, it seems there is no good solution. It may be time to find a different avocation.

An important part of my week is given to helping my closest Taos friend cope with the limitations of Cancer. She can no longer drive and sometimes can barely walk. She lives by herself, a 30-minute drive for me, and so is her P.O. box in a different direction. The last time I took my car to the gas pump it cost $52.  I must plan my trips for groceries, and mail very carefully. No spontaneous trips to the store for bread or cat food.

The dreadful war in Ukraine feels like a blow to the chest, like when I fell off the roof as a kid and it took some time before I could breathe again or see something on the black screen. You see, I have what feels like a past life (or maybe just other life) connection with both Ukraine and Russia, and this is like a family quarrel with guns and rockets. Neither country will ever be the same again, nor will the countries that depend on wheat and oil. In our own country, partisan politics seems to be marching us toward another civil war, as the sides become more alienated by their opposing beliefs about a future that is based on fear and speculation. The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s on a national level, and perhaps soon on an international level.

Spring is trying to move into its place, while a dry wind withers new leaves and blossoms and feeds the fires.  Oh, by the way, this is also Friday the 13th.  Does all the seeming problems and lapses mean as a species we are heading into the future with all the dysfunctional patterns of the past, plus a few new ones we invented along the way?

As humans we are myopic, and our brains are full of obsolete programs for new problems.  Perhaps, nature tries to wipe the virus off the world’s hard drive and do a hard restart. But of course, the past is never entirely destroyed, and new structures grow on the old foundations. When summer finally arrives, maybe I will look at the leaves on the plumb tree outside my living room window and forget that the wind blew the blossoms off last week. Time is the only medicine for some diseases. We seem to be approaching that high fever crisis that determines which way the sickness will go. Hmm! I wonder if COVID19 is a kind of metaphoric disease for the times we live in.

 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

NEW EYES

Next month, June 12, 2022, it will be a year since my husband physically left this world. I’ve never been a widow before, so I’m in unfamiliar territory.  Of course, I have lost grandparents, parents, close friends, and when I was three years old, I lost my only sibling, but was too young to understand the full impact of that loss, even though it changed my life forever, due to its effect on my parents and the fact that we moved back to Denver, Colorado from Vallejo California two days later.

 My parents didn’t fully recover from those events until after I was an adult. The restart in Denver was itself traumatic. My entire childhood and adolescence were viewed through darkened lenses. The past existed behind a mysterious door to a room I assumed was locked. PQ’s absence has been like an enigmatic dream. As in a dream, reality pops back and forth between dimensions.

I suppose, everything in life is influenced by one’s previous history and my history has become a kaleidoscope in the months since PQ left. Of course, I remember the things that PQ and I did together. The mundane things are now the most precious and I’m today aware that words such as mundane and special don’t mean anything to the heart. Kaleidoscopes are a bit like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and they can be hypnotic. I suppose any shock to one’s identity and life habits can spin one into another world. My response varies from day to day, but it is full and fascinating.

Two days ago, I was thinking of my mother’s description of moving from their apartment in Denver when my father was conscripted by the government to work at Mare Island Shipyard near Vallejo California on Navy ships damaged in WWII.  I have always had a mental image of their apartment. Since I was nine months old, (or was it six months?) I have no memory of that fabled peaceful beginning. While looking for some documents, it suddenly occurred to me to see if the location of this apartment might be listed on my birth certificate.  Indeed, it was!

I looked up the address, and found a triplex of apartments, all on ground level. They were in one of the older neighborhoods and appeared to be of a style common in the 1890’s. I could tell that very little had changed, except the shrubbery was probably no more than 20 years old. They were much like several apartments my grandparents had lived in. The importance of finding that apartment was that it had never occurred to me to do that simple bit of research on the internet before. When my mother described the struggle of packing up their belongings and arranging the trip to Vallejo on her own, since dad had to go ahead of her. She had to do it all while dealing with an infant, I had always imagined them living at the top of a two-story apartment.  This is all very mundane stuff, but it was a shock to realize that it had never occurred to me to ask google maps where I spent most of my first year. I’m learning to explore ignored corners of both the past and present.

PQ’s passing is still rearranging my life and not just the life I’ve had since moving to Taos, but my entire relationship with time and identity. PQ kept me on the first floor of my living space. I loved the routines, the trips to Santa Fe, visiting with our friends, shared memories, looking forward to the film about PQ’s life, restaurant visits, family members dropping by, and people wanting to meet PQ hoping to get some counseling, wisdom, or sympathy. He and I for a long time held the hope of someday getting back to our soul home in Arizona. Even though it became apparent that it wouldn’t happen in the time we had left, the meaning and memory was our special shared paradise and soul retreat.

Death is a radical reboot! At least that’s how it has been. If it was possible, I would bring him back in a heartbeat, but if he were to come back, he would find that I have changed in many ways. I can’t easily explain how I can be in mourning and excited about rediscovering the world and renewing personal history at the same time. Yesterday, I went to the El Prado post office which used to be my post office in earlier days, to pick up my friend Jeannie’s mail and was almost washed away in waves of memory that are now teaming with new fish. Sometimes there are more insights, memories, and new impressions than my mind can hold, and they slip away as I try to catch and bag them.

I’m experiencing a goodbye to old hopes and dear memories all the while experiencing a restart. Right now, I’m still not ready to come out of my exo-womb, which is my house and familiar neighborhood. However, all the previous lives comprising my almost eighty years are, much to my surprise, being reborn as well and I think about revisiting places of meaning, not just for memories sake, but to see how they are with my new perspective, much like trying on an old dress that you loved but were too fat to wear. I’ve literally and figuratively lost weight in this past year and I have a new wardrobe that was tucked away in the closet for a long time.

This past year I’ve lived alone quietly with my cat Shadow and a sick stray I call Himmy, because I thought he was a Himalayan. I’ve been tied down because I don’t know anyone to take care of them if I left for a few days or even overnight. I don’t think Himmy has much time left, even though I’ve taken him to the vet several times, his condition is getting worse. My long-time friend Jeannie has bone cancer and can no longer drive and for awhile was barely able to walk. I’m tied down even while I would love to fly. Realistically, my income wouldn’t allow travel anyway, but I wonder how it would feel to visit some of my old haunts in my new state of mind. I have a sense that PQ completely agrees and would love to come with me.

Sometimes I work for awhile on a painting I started months ago, but it isn’t ready to emerge yet in the physical world. I write every day in my journal, and that is where I strip away the outer layers of my mind to reveal paths to higher worlds while connecting the trails in this world. The Hermetic axiom, “as above, so below,” reveals new applications from the simple to the sublime.

I’m physically more fit and energetic than I have been in recent years, as if a heavy coat was removed. I have nothing to declare on the Medicare/Medicaid survey I’m supposed to submit. I’ve learned to do many physical things I thought I was too old for, but I’m still very aware that I don’t have time to waste, and I have practical issues to deal with such as a will. If I died tomorrow, no one would know what to do with me, or whom to contact. Time is ticking but I’m learning how to dance to new rhythms. 

As I'm writing this, I look around the room trying to understand why the walls and furniture seem like a clever copy of my living room. Nothing seems familiar anymore. I don't think the same eyes are looking at my house.  I'm just a housesitter taking care of the house until the owner returns.

 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

“WHAT IF THEY GAVE A WAR AND NOBODY CAME” (Because they had a life to live)

Remember that saying that became a slogan? Those of us alive in the 70’s probably remember it on T-shirts. Of course, this is unlikely to happen because one side will always be suspicious that the other side is using this hypothetical statement as a trap, and yet it would be the simplest end to the problem of war.

“Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die “--Alfred Lord Tennyson, from the Charge of the Light Brigade.

There are times when all must work together as one mind like worker bees. However, it is very dangerous, when the motivation is a single individual’s personal beliefs and ambitions. Group response for group well being would seem to be the obvious preference. Worker bees don’t attack in support of the queen’s megalomania.

The Russian troops thought they were on a special training mission until ordered to invade Ukraine, (at least that is what we were told). I immediately thought of that old anti-war saying from hippie days, “what if they gave a war and nobody came.” Of course, the human herd instinct is so strong that this is extremely unlikely to happen.

We humans seem to be caught in existential conundrum. We are herd animals who are suspicious of our neighbors, we are inclined to steal their goodies, and we are now in a situation where we are all dependent on each other for trading resources and labor. Not many people would now justify an invasive war for purely material, “rape and pillage” reasons, but if given even a weak moral argument willingly go to war with the neighbors.

Interestingly, leaders are often morally less developed than most of their subjects. Perhaps, it’s because narcissistic personalities have the motivation to scramble, and bully unencumbered by empathy or doubt to the top of a group in any way they can to gain the importance externally that they lack internally. Within a group, they are the individuals who aren’t aligned with the group’s well being. So, there are two types who are not inclined to follow the charge of the light brigade; those who have no moral compass or sense of responsibility, and those who see their group membership within a larger spectrum of outcome and history, in other words, as citizens of the world first and citizens of a tribe secondarily.

The big picture, (or at least the next grade up) is apparently invisible to those wearing elaborate masks whose eye holes only see in one direction. I was recently watching a history of the early Middle Ages in the Ukraine and Western Russia. Each warlord conquered as many territories as possible, burnt the cities and towns of rival chieftains, and gathered goods and slaves until another younger and stronger one (often a son or brother) did away with him  and then carried on in the same pattern. We like to think that danger is greater today than in the distant past, but about the only difference is that leaders now attempt to rationalize their avarice and power mongering while, in the past, it was a badge of glory. However, the most important difference is that technology has finally reached an impasse with atomic weaponry. Like the biblical Sampson, the overly ambitious may well bring their own roof crashing down on top of their head while sending debris across the rest of the planet. Of course, there are those who are hoping to ameliorate this problem by colonizing other planets.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if those potential escape planets were long ago rendered into inhospitable deserts in the same way that humans are trying to make this planet inhospitable? Its like a terrible housekeeper moving to a new house to leave the mess behind. The house might be fresh, but the new owner is the same bad occupant.

Are those horror movies about an overwhelming alien invasion of earth by aliens a guilty self-projection by this planet’s most dangerous occupants?  Have we created a mountain of debris so high that karmic gravity must finally cause it to collapse in a catastrophic landslide? To paraphrase Pogo, we have met the Alien and he is us.

The leaders of countries seem to easily slide into the temptation to regard their country much like the proud, ambitious parent of a little league ball player, or Olympic athlete. This is certainly a good reason for limiting the time permitted in power. In this case, the occupants of the disputed land are regarded as at best disloyal children and at worst pawns. The decision to go to war to claim territory is incredibly dehumanizing and cruel, but no nation can claim innocence, and self-righteous outrage directed at the latest autocrat is historic amnesia. I can’t think of an innocent nation. I wonder if humanity can ever outgrow this primitive game. The instruments of war become ever more sophisticated while the impetus is developmentally locked in place .

And yet, nobody likes war, at least they won’t admit it, (except for General MacArthur who openly admitted that he loved war). That’s why they blame the other guy, whom they hope will turn out to be the unfortunate loser, by divine will or some other high authority. It reminds me of the way a neurotic will keep repeating the same mistake in hope that next time it will work if he/she just uses more force or determination.