Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday Slice: Our own Charlotte

Last night:  I'm worried as soon as I step into the kitchen.  I see a leaf whipping madly about in the cold, blustery wind outside the window above the sink.  It's stuck to Charlotte's web...but where is Charlotte?  Turning off all the lights to cut the glare, I can see that she's not in sight.  I'm hoping she's tucked under the eaves; I've just warmed up, and not about to go out with a flashlight to check.

Charlotte appeared in our back window in early October.  I first noticed her at oh-dark-thirty in the morning as I shuffled to my coffeemaker.  I looked up bleary-eyed and jumped, thinking I had just walked past a spider hanging from the kitchen ceiling, reflected in the window.  She was outside, hanging in the center of a web invisible in the dark.
Intrigued, I went to investigate in the light of day, but only found the web--and it was big, almost a foot-and-a-half across, attached to our eaves and patio furniture.  Further trips to the backyard uncovered Charlotte's daytime roost between the gutter and the eave.  At dusk, she would be back in view, often respinning the web she had carefully gathered up in the morning.  She kept to her nocturnal schedule for quite a few weeks until recently, when we saw her at all hours.  She didn't come out at all for the last three days, and I thought the worst, until she reappeared Sunday morning.  Her web was much smaller, but still just as detailed, strands less than a quarter inch apart.

But the weather is getting colder this week.  Charlotte made what looks like an egg case a couple of weeks ago, and I've learned that the lifespan of a tropical orb weaver is only about a year.  I'm thinking she isn't long for this world, so I treasure each sighting, knowing it may just be the last one.

Meanwhile, another new tenant is renting space in our backyard.  

This prickly-looking arachnid has taken up residence on our playscape.  The spiny orb weaver's web sports equally spaced dots on its sparse lines.    

A little late to be catching our summer mosquitoes...but I think I'll let her stay, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday Slice of Life: Coming out of the dark

I am a realistic optimist who likes scary books and movies...except when they hit too close to home.  Loved Stephen King's Pet Sematary (even though I shrieked at the ending and threw the book across the room), couldn't sleep for nights after watching "Poltergeist" in the 80s (there was a toy clown in my bedroom, and I come from a family of ghost-believers).  Love Poe-esque horror stories, could barely stomach Hunger Games (the social commentary on economic class and reality television seemed frighteningly prophetic).  I am the girl at the movies who will deliver a vise-like grip on the arm of the person next to me when the suspense becomes too much, then come home and quickly push aside the shower curtain in the bathroom to make sure no one is lurking there.

This meme appeared in my Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago.  It reminded me of my reaction to scary movies and books, and seemed apropos for the news these days:  #metoo, hate crime shootings and bombings, voter suppression, and the midterm elections.
My husband and I have already cast our ballots.  The thought of watching mainstream television tonight, favorite shows interrupted by election result updates, is giving me the same upset stomach that Hunger Games delivered.  Rather than ride an emotional rollercoaster all evening, which would undoubtedly lead to a restless night--all due to something which is now beyond our control--we are considering leaving the television off, or maybe binge-watching an Amazon Prime show or two.  We will hold each other tight and drift off to sleep.  

The realist in me says that no matter what, we will persevere.  The optimist in me hopes the curtains will be thrown wide open, and the boogeymen will be seen for who they are, vanquished in the light of day.  I can wait for the morning for the ending to this scary movie.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday Slice: The words we leave behind

Last week's prompt on Two Writing Teachers referred to the National Day on Writing, asking us to reflect on why we write.  I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I didn't check the prompt before posting, but my friend Fran Haley did.  She wrote a beautiful piece on her reasons for writing; take a moment to read it here.

Fran's piece prompted two writing memories--one old, and one from two weekends past.

Many years ago, my parents were cleaning out their garage and came across some old school papers of mine.  In the box, they found journals from my early teen years.  I had a rough time at both of my middle schools--the one stateside because I was smart and the only military BRAT in class; and the one overseas, where I just didn't fit in yet.  Luckily, I had teachers who encouraged journaling in class, and I was able to vent a lot of frustration and sadness in those pages.  My despair went so far as to chronicle thoughts of suicide, which I quickly dismissed (also in writing) because of the hurt it would cause my parents, who were in no way responsible for my depression.

My parents read the journal when they discovered it, and were shocked by those passages.  They had no idea of my feelings back then.  I was able to put on a brave front simply because I could "write it out".

Fast forward several decades.  Now it's my husband who's cleaning up our son's high school papers while he's away at college.  My husband hands me a piece of paper from the pile--a math worksheet.  I look puzzled, so he tells me to turn it over.  Our son had journaled on the back--a passage about feeling overwhelmed by homework and AP classes and SATs.  He decided to take a break on our neighborhood hike-and-bike. As he watched some sunbathing turtles in the creek, he was able to decompress and feel like a kid again.

We saved his story, as my parents had saved my journals.  Reading about our son's anxiety, I wished I had ready access to my middle school writing back then.  If I had let my children read about my adolescent struggles, maybe they could have navigated those years a little more easily.

Perhaps it's time to start gathering our family's words, to pass on to the next generation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday Slice: First world problems

You may have seen the images of Central Texas on the news these past few days.
Llano River Flooding

Lake Travis Flooding
This area is just to the north/northwest of us, and these waters flow into downtown Austin to the south.  The news reported yesterday on the effects of the flooding on our water supply--the reasons we are now under a boil-water notice.

The water hasn't been tested positive for anything specific; the boiling notice is a precautionary measure.  We are fine in our house.  Showering is still okay, we already had bottled water on hand, and I've boiled a couple of gallons more.  My husband likes his water cold--and I had already dumped out the ice cubes--so he headed to a convenience store and picked up some gallons to stick in the fridge.

This is just a minor inconvenience at this point.  We still went to work, had access to flushing toilets and sinks, bottled water to drink during the day, came home, even went to the polls for early voting.  I'm hopeful that the silt will clear in a few days and our water situation will return to normal.

Meanwhile, folks in Flint, Michigan have been without uncontaminated water for years.  Native American tribal lands are still lacking water delivery infrastructure.  And the World Health Organization reported last year that globally, 2.1 billion people don't have access to safe drinking water.

We are more than okay in our little, unflooded home in Central Texas.  I'll just be a bit more grateful for my indoor plumbing and bottled water today--and the next day, and the next, if it takes that long for the river to clear.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday Slice: Crepitus

mass noun
1.  A grating sound or sensation produced by friction between bone and cartilage or the fractured parts of a bone.

Origin:  Early 19th century: from Latin, from crepare ‘rattle’."

At least twice weekly I hear it.  After the pop of my shoulders as my arms stretch upward, the rustling crepitus makes itself known in the
rotation of my upper back
circling of my pendulous head, first clockwise, then counter
slight popping of my wrists as my fists rotate
rustling of my lower vertebrae as my hips circle this way and that

not unlike the leaves that crunch underfoot on my porch.

It's so loud in my head, this grating, rubbing noise as I move my joints, neck to ankles--the soundtrack to the autumn of my years. 
Photo by Symphony999
 [CC BY-SA 3.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday Slice: The Clown

One of my self-care actions this school year is attending more SoulCollage© sessions.  There's just something about focusing on a theme and images that takes me out of my head and into my heart for a few hours each month.  This past weekend I needed it more than ever, after reading my friends' #metoo stories and following the debacle of the Supreme Court nomination hearings.

Sue, our facilitator, introduced us to Heyoka, the Native American version of The Clown Archetype.  This "court jester" leads us to truth with humor, delivering pranks borne of love without bullying.  I know very few people with this skill; I believe my mother was one of them.  We also talked about Coyote, The Trickster, and listened to one person's account of sitting in a circle of animal dung waiting for enlightenment, only to be laughed at by Coyote and told to lighten up.
My Heyoka SoulCollage© card, 10.6.18.
My mind has definitely been in a serious state as of late, and in desperate need of Heyoka's wise humor.  After pulling a borrowed card and using it to interpret Heyoka's message to us, this is what I "heard":

"Hey, you serious dreamer, you whose sadness and despair leave you feeling punched in the gut...

Get that sh** out already!  Don't you know that the darkness you swallow doesn't need to stay, can't stay inside for too long, or it will end in necrosis? 

Climb this tree with me.  Swing your legs, look down on that which makes you feel hopeless.  See that in the grand scheme of things, those problems are really quite small.  Feel the strength of this old tree, which has seen it all and continues to thrive.

This is a season of blossoming and change.  Whistle through the chaos, stop and smell the roses...such glorious blooms are fed, after all, by the sh** in the earth.

Dance with me, you dreamer, and all will be well."

As if to punctuate the message, Heyoka showed up again in my Monday Notes from the Universe™ :

"Did you know that it's perfectly OK, even highly ideal, to claim all is well amid doubt and confusion? To be happy in spite of challenges? To laugh at problems? Dance without a partner? Sing without a rhyme? Talk to inanimate objects?"

Yep, I'm getting the message to lighten up loud and clear.  Thanks for taking the edge off my sadness, Clown/Heyoka/Trickster.  Or shall I call you "Hope"?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tuesday Slice: Equal expectations

My husband and I are "CBS Sunday Morning" watchers.  Or rather, I watch it, and he listens from the study, popping in and out of the living room as topics catch his interest.  I liken it to the "Mr. Rogers" time of our weekend, a relatively quiet hour-and-a-half of catching up on news and learning a thing or two about modern history, human ingenuity and acts of kindness.  No sensationalism, no yelling, the show always ending with a "moment of nature" for which we both pause in silence.

During 2018, the show is featuring snippets of history from 1968.  My memories of that year barely exist; I was two, and reeling from my only-child throne upended by the arrival of my brother.  I watch these segments and try to imagine how it impacted my parents and their peers during that year of tumultuous changes in the U.S.

This past weekend, the 1968 spotlight focused on the Miss America pageant.  Unbeknownst to the competitors, feminists marched outside the event, likening it to a cattle auction. It was one of the first times the women's liberation movement would make headlines.

Gender inequality is still a newsworthy topic; the display of male privilege during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings is a prime example.  The advances made by those 60's feminists, though, are still felt today.  A quote that stayed with me from the segment came from Gail Collins, a New York Times columnist:

"... and within one generation, a little baby girl being born was picked up by her father and looked at with the same expectations as a little baby boy being born." 

I'm not sure if my parents felt that way when my brother and I were born.  I know for sure that when my own daughter and son arrived in the 1990s, our expectations for each were wide open.    Forecasting a narrow vision of their future wasn't a consideration; our dreams and prayers were for a healthy, happy life of fulfilling work and relationships.

Given the current political and societal climate, I hope our dreams for both our daughter and son can still come true.