Regret: To Be or Not To Be...

Michelle posted a tale of 4 cats which tells of the time she was a bad cat-mom. I get this; I've been a bad cat-mom. I've been a bad mom. I'm currently a bad bike-mom to a Bianchi who deserves better.

I just went through a round of re-forgiving myself for various ill-conceived decisions I made when I thought I was smart. I've reached a point in my life where all my miscalculations are auto-functioning and I no longer have to monitor them with my guilt; but the guilt doesn't go away, no.

However, I can stop following that guilt around with actions meant to mollify it, and I can use the available space I didn't have when I needed to monitor my miscalculations. I can actually do things now that I wanted to do - should have been doing, if we want to use the s-word - back when I was trying to clean up my own messes.

It's not as awesome as it sounds; it's awkward. I have space and no instructions on what to do with it, - I should have learned the steps ages …

Depression Talk - a Bullseye Drawn.

Were I capable of taking my own life, I probably found the place where it's done.  Now that the darkest dark seems to have passed, I'm telling you what I found. I'm practicing reaching out.

If you didn't hear from me, it's because I'm wary of your intentions. I know you care, and I believe you want the best for me.  A hug can become an extra burden.  Questions and empathy bruise when my answers aren't received the way I gave them. I'm afraid of being smoothed over.

The standard response to things we don't understand is to disregard or re-frame to fit into something more comfortable for us; it's natural. The knee-jerk reaction is to drop everything and address someone else's problem. We instinctively seek a fast resolution so we can go back to tending our own.

Please note I never used the words "someone needs help."  Needing help is frowned upon in our culture, and nobody wants to be needy. We don't want to believe it about our…

Ping - a letter to non-proximal friends

I miss my friend horribly today.

I miss the way we could joke about anything, knowing this was the safe zone, knowing we were really all okay and could be trusted in the world despite what we thought funny right now.

I miss coffee under palm trees.  I miss painting the stairs. I miss laughing over school assignments. Not holding back.

I don't miss those days, but I miss the safe zone and the shared vocabulary.  We knew all along that we'd move on eventually, not knowing to where - it's a rite of passage. We are processes, always moving but not always with translatable maps.  Knowing never makes it easy.

I'm alone among friends where I am now.  I've built myself a fort, and I am safe, but it's a different sort of safety.  I miss feeling understood.  I'm afraid of possibly never being understood again, since every minute of every day puts more mileage between then and tomorrow. Now is frangible.  I assure you the fear is valid.

New words are built every day,…

How to Teach Nuance

When I'm unsure whether I'm reading nuance correctly, I check in with someone whose perception I trust, or whose decision will factor into the success of the project.  I tend to check smaller packets of information than others do, because I can.

I've already calculated a few probable outcomes. I want to know which outcome we prefer as a team. However, everyone's busy and would like to not follow the trail of my process to grasp what I'm after. I can't formulate the easy question on the fly. If someone asks me "why", and I try to answer, we're all in trouble, because I will tell you.  All of it.

I've always been this way.  I probably was an annoying kid.

Kids bring to you things that aren't important at the moment to you. You may be sorting some high-level issue for the household, and you don't get why the kid needs to know right now.  The short answer is: "the kid wants attention."  There are nuances, though. The answer may …

*POETRY WARNING* Caterpillar Soup

I am melting
reforming what was
as it swims my vision
the hardening of wings is
sharp elbows inside this envelope
Curling tongue where once were teeth
will my voice now spiral, not gnash?
it's solitary work, metamorphosis
just like the skin that no longer fit
I'll cast aside this shell
and fly 5000 miles
to my death
in the sun

Further Reading:

How Does a Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly?
- from Scientific American.  You always wanted to know, right?

Photos of metamophosis without a cocoon
Michael Cook managed to capture photos of a Tussah silkmoth larva that failed to spin a cocoon.

Why Millions of Painted Lady Butterflies are Migrating Through California
- from WBUR.  I witnessed this migration myself in 2001 and represented it in a painting I no longer have. Despite complaints from people who like their cars to be pristine, it was one of the most magical things I've experienced.

Definitions for Typos: Sunglower vs. Migraine

I'm on day two of migraine, which almost never happens to me.  The sun is shining but I can't enjoy it because it's too bright; the letters on my screen are doubling as I type but less so than yesterday.  I'll take it slowly.

My signature stiff neck is loosening and actually hurts, which is better than the usual feeling which defies explanation - like my body chooses to stop existing and I'm unsure where I'm attached.  It's not pain, exactly, but something more horrifying.  When I feel it coming - when sounds and lights are becoming sharper - I can usually duck out with a lot of Ibuprofen and benadryl and sleep until it passes.  I haven't gotten to day 2 in years.

But I am dedicated to #draweveryday, so last night I did some work I thought I could manage by rote, more birds to the murmuration on my painting The Zorya.  My initial vision for this painting suggested it would be finished by now and I'd be working on a new one in the series.

To Ramble, or Not to Ramble - Fighting Migration

I've always been this way - I feel an overwhelming drive to pack up and leave town. Be somewhere else. Take my circus on the road.  It's downright painful, sometimes, this feeling - my legs hurt from trying to uproot.

There have been times in my life when I heeded it.  My [ angels, ancestors, voices in my head ] have told me very loudly: DON'T MOVE.  And I got this message before, this time, the feeling hit.  So I'm not moving; I feel like I'm melting in my stasis.  It's very weird.

My brother and I joke about The Ewing Gene, and we didn't really think we were joking, but Daniel C. Dennett has pointed out potential basis for our observation in his book Bacteria to Bach and Back:

Interestingly, when there isn't enough stability over time in the selective environment to permit natural selection to "predict" the future accurately (when "selecting" the best designs for the next generation), natural selection does better by leaving the ne…

I Want To Believe - Why We Need Science Fiction and Psychedelic Therapy

I'm working on a commissioned art project, and to set the mood I'm streaming The X-Files Season 4.  I'm up to the Bruce Campbell episode (I love him so much.) So now I'm digressing, because if you should be painting then apparently you write.

There's so much social media hype telling us to back away from social media.  It's Orwellian, right?  Connecting with people who are not proximal but share interests isn't wrong; connecting with bots and arguing moot points is.  Instant gratification builds unhealthy addiction to instant gratification.  We need to practice focusing on long-term goals. We need to remember how to process long sentences and find definitions in the context.

We need actual Science Fiction.  Also, we need actual science.

 In my angsty pre-teen years, I found solace in the worlds created by Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein.  Heinlein gave us the word grok, a very useful term for this blog's subject matter.  Bradbury's work stood…

Gloria - How Poetry Happens

As a part of my ongoing effort to Get Over Myself, I'm sharing with you  here my process and notes for writing a poem titled Gloria.

Gloria was my father's second wife, my brother Michael's mom.  She was truly one-of-a-kind.  It's whispered in the hallways that my gay Uncle Thom was so impressed by Gloria that he gave her orchids he'd grown himself - twice.

"I'm part Indian," she once told me, blue eyes twinkling. And then she lifted her pants leg. "See my Black Foot?"  I think she was serious about being part Blackfoot, though; she had a funny sense of humour.  We sometimes fought.  She borrowed my hippie clothes when she was pregnant.  And she could outdrink my dad.  Gloria went on to marry several times after divorcing my father.

"Seventh time's a charm," she quipped.  I could hear her eyes twinkle over the phone.  That was probably the last time I talked to her.  We weren't close, but she was important.

But these aren&…

Wayne, the Badass Typewriter Table

My craving for wood furniture colluded with my need to optimize minimal space in my Tiny Cottage, and I found this table on craigslist.  It looked steampunky-gorgeous, and the seller thought it would clean up nice.

He brought it to me Sunday, and told me I'd hit one out of the ball park.He'd dug around on the internet for some history on this piece, maybe underbid himself a bit.

IDEAL was a popular typewriter company. Sherman and Manson were both bicycle manufacturers. BICYCLES. If you've known me for a long time, you know I am crazy about bicycles as an art form, just as much as I love chairs.  What are bicycles but chairs on wheels, right?

 In high school I rode 25+ miles a day regularly, and did all my own maintenance on my Schwinn.  When I lived in California, I got an old Motobecane; an old French guy actually stopped me on the street to look it over.  At the moment I'm a bad bike-mom to a Bianchi.  I had to let someone else change a tire because I couldn't g…

Unreasonable Heart - Desperately Seeking Purpose

This is one of my cruelest demons:  the nagging feeling that somewhere, somehow, I've done something wrong and it's coming back to haunt me.

That I've hurt someone with my obliviousness, and  I should be punishing myself for knowing better.  For doing it yet again.  Because I probably have - I've met me - but maybe I haven't.  I'm practicing Mindful STFU, but it's slow going.  I'm used to regret.

When things are too calm, I start waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I wait for the secret pleasure of resolution in that moment when I find out what went wrong, and I can say Aha! There it is - that place where I failed to hold up my corner of the universe.

There is no math to support my belief, but if I wait long enough, I'll be able to draw an inaccurate conclusion, congratulate myself for missing the mark.

We are pattern extractors, and the worst pattern is the one where we spend every minute it takes, all the way to a lifetime, creating reas…

*POETRY WARNING* For Michael, Proper - Alles Gute zum Ihren Geburtstag!

For Michael, Proper

My friend, My son,
Confidante, Sometimes-secret soul:
On your day Everybody passes hearts Like a telephone game
Hoping to get one in pocket With its message Still recognisable.
It looks like fun, sometimes, But nobody seems to read The secret words of hearts.
I put my heart in your pocket Knowing it's safe there While I wait for my can to ring.

I missed my own Anniversary

Well, this is awkard.  I was mentally prepped to be excited about living here at Tiny Cottage for two years, and then it happened.  Rolled right by.  Last week.  

Here's the win, though:  it didn't register.  That's how comfortable I am in life right now.

Remember that first time you forgot it was payday because you weren't desperately hanging on until it arrived? No, seriously, I've done that.  Not quite there at the moment, but I remember.  That's how I feel right now.

Very Adulty. 

In a way, I did celebrate.  I cooked a lot of things, including a stellar rhubarb-pear pie with smoked almonds, and my signature dish: Shepherd's Bhai.  This is the traditional shepherd's pie with an Indopak twist to it - the meat is seasoned with Shan's spice pack, and the potatoes are mashed with butter, garlic/ginger paste, turmeric and yogurt.  I layer mint, cilantro, and this time tomatoes between the queema and the potato topping like a biryani.  Bhai means brother i…

How Much Is My Caring Worth?

These are myriad "things" that are easy for us to recognize, point to, love or hate, and, in many cases, manipulate or even create." - Daniel C. Dennett, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: the Evolution of MindsWe build archetypes without even thinking about it:  you visualise your dreams, your goals, your friends, your self.  You make decisions based largely on the mental models  you've created with data you collected to build those archetypes. 

If you're emotionally invested in the advice you've lent someone, you may take their failure worse than they do. If your knowledge is currency and you need to keep ledgers on where you spend it, then do that before spending, not after.

Give without strings attached, and that includes advice.

If you love someone, let them fail.  If you can't afford to clean them up after the fall, tell them.  Let them know you love them but you can't afford it right now.  Answer their questions honestly.

That's all you owe any…


I miss you Saturdays... 

while busy people shuttle
back and forth 
on busy streets

and the laundry van honks loud
and the radio summons
us to other things

nobody stops to offer a good word

here or there

late at night
with just the moon and the may-beetles
I breath a sigh and grin

Saturday is almost over
and Sunday will begin again...

-for Richard Robert Erdmann on his graduation from CMU

Celebrate Your Existence. Tell us about it, or not.

Life is to be celebrated. 

There is nothing else. 

Do that. 

You are here, and that's all that matters. Seriously.

And That's Why I can't Go to the Library

It all started with a bottle cap.

In those days I worked at the Holiday Inn on Sprinkle Road. I used to meet coworkers at Bell's Brewery about once a month; we called it a Front Desk Meeting even though I worked in housekeeping at the time.  Tim could no longer work or play guitar, so he spent a lot of time watching TV.  He'd usually have thoughtful questions for me by the time I got home.  This is how I could tell what he'd been watching.

"If you could take any person out of history - and it can't be someone easy, like Hitler - who would it be?" He looked at me placidly, waiting for an answer.

"Just a second," I said, looking at my hands still full of things brought in from the car. "I have to think. Any other clues?"  His face remained static so I went to the kitchen to put things down. I heard him respond from around the corner.

"For me, it would be the guy who invented bottle caps." So it was the History Channel. As I came b…

For Two Emilys

This morning a raven - maybe a rook - was walking on the parking deck railing I can see from my cube window. He had something in his mouth and he seemed very pleased about it. He hopped down behind the wall, like he wanted to hide his prize from other corvids nearby, or maybe find a place where he could crack it open.

He looked up over the wall, and then hopped onto it, and then lost his footing on the ice.  He slid a few paces, scrambled a bit, then hopped up to the pipe railing and down again - the metal was probably colder than the concrete.  All the while he held that round thing in his mouth.  I wonder whether it was something to eat, or something to covet.

The sun is trying to melt the world, but it's just too cold.

I felt disappointment that I wasn't able to get your attention so you could see for yourself.  That corner is an empty space of hope.  It was a flying spell, that pocket-magic, I tell you.

How is your world today?

Postcard from the Beach

The most adorable thing happened today - my landlords sent me a postcard. They're away in warmer climes, and I'm feeding the cat, tending the plants, raiding the liquor cabinet once in a while. Okay, once. I was bored.

I don't have a return address, so I'm responding to them here.

Things are fine; it hasn't snowed much at all, really.  I had one big day where I shoveled from my door to the car, and then from the big tree to the road, and then shoveled the road.  The foxes laid tracks all over the yard. I stayed home from work today but I won't have to move snow at all.  Today we had what must be called sun-snow.  Either there were secret clouds or it was so bitterly cold that the snowflakes had drifted gently and intact onto leaves and were thence lifted by the wind.  I couldn't capture the effect by camera. Let me know when you open the whisky from Holland.

Tigger's been good; Barb left him catnip and I will bring him some more later in the week.  Tak…

Breakfast With Parmenides - Who Reads This Stuff Anymore?

"Meet it is that thou shouldst learn all things; as well the unshaken heart of well-rounded truth as the opinions of mortals, in which is no true belief at all." - Parmenides I really love waking up to stuff like this in emails.  The Venn diagram of my social circles would look like a bubble bath, but if you consider the whole bathtub you'll see I collect diverse and well-read people. Together our book collections could rebuild Alexandria.

A young girl who called herself Stencil Fox suggested I read The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie.  I was amazed.  How could Salman Rushdie be world-famous?  Could it really be that other people in the world, enough other people, like the same things I like?  Do readers not only follow complex sentences but relish them?  Sure, there was that fatwa-thing...and the hot wife with the cooking show.  But really, are there enough lovers of words to redeem humanity from my judg(e)ment?

There are.

I braved the masses at the 2016 Nati…