[Journal's Back] Wings, Strings & Practicing DogMind
Journal | Week of October 17, 2022
For those new to this e-community, I offer my readers weekly snippets from my daily writing (tidied up a bit ;-)
October 17, 2022 | Monday
Swarming. When the eyes see anything swarming, the body becomes a pulse tapping faster.
At the edge of the the garden, winged beings. Hundreds of them. Each is the length of a fingernail. They scuttle in all directions, over everything beside me, making stones and a piece of driftwood seem alive, their long slender wings folded down their backs like little translucent capes.
They are both countless individuals and one moving mass.
Leave it to the mind to go to the most alarming possibility. Termites!
Okay, not the most alarming possibility. Alarming would be: What if they are some strange, new Russian insect-drones sent to release poison gas if I stare at them too long? Somehow they know I bought a hand-made Ukrainian stained-glass bat for a friend to hang in her high-desert home in August.
Ah, that’s the creative mind at play. But. Are they termites? Do they want to eat my home tiny bite by tiny bite? Should I buy myself a Ukrainian stain-glass bat to scare them away? Plus, my friend said it really is as beautiful as it looks on Etsy.
My eyeglasses in the house, I crouch on elbows and knees, snap photos from different angles on my iPhone. Once I’ve captured them inside my shiny screen, my finger and thumb stretch their bodies big, looking for details. I see my answer.
Antennas are bent as if they have elbows. And there, those pinched waists. They’re winged ants. Now, looking more closely into the swarming and scuttling, I seem them—lots of plain, black garden ants. Hello there!
I wonder if the regular ants feel left out, the earthbound among all that winged possibility.
Leaning into this moment of chaos below the last orange blossoms of nasturtiums and poppies, I think of the moon. I think of a client I adore working with and a photo she sent of the moon seeming to bear a human face.
Tell me, little winged ones, if the moon had eyes, is this how we would seem? Not the one-of-a-kind-ness of many individuals, just one frantic human mass?
October 18, 2022 | Tuesday
What comes to us is touched by others. Who picked this lettuce? What grubs mined the roots and which spiders dreamed their webs between the leafy heads? Sun hovered, rain fell, and soil brought its aliveness.
It’s all touch and the residue of touch. Always the remnant of someone with you … in the fabric of this sleeve brushing wrist, that stuffed llama smiling on a pillow, the Kokopelli quilt with all it’s stitches, green window shade, singing bowl, pine floor and oak desk, little speckled and furry blanket where the cats were sleeping.
I think of the hand-made, stained-glass bat now hanging in a window, dazzling the eyes of a dear friend.
Hands made it. The shards of glass tenderly worked by hands in Ukraine in the midst of destruction and death. How does Dmytro, the man behind the glass, do it? How does he, and surely others, create art for the rest of us who only watch war as a strange, distant scene on the telly?
Look down, I think. Here are your hands. Temporary. Love them while you can.
Going to my Etsy email, I read our exchanges, send Dmytro another message to let him know I’m thinking about him and his people, leave a review, and order some stained glass dragonflies resting on mushrooms for gifts, and yes, one for me.
My hands will meet Dmytro’s in the blue wings.
October 19, 2022 | Wednesday
Waking alone, but beside you,
we’ve drifted into one more morning,
together. Moonlight in the window,
your sleeping face is
a little raft floating
I breathe in your breathing.
Let me be oar, be current, be the way
water talks to stone on its
October 20, 2022 | Thursday
Who says coyotes yap? Or howl? Tonight they sound lonesome, a cross between gravelly, repeated sighs and a question, a kind of ow-ow-ow-whoooo, as if they are missing someone, but they don’t know who.
Who do you miss? One voice inside me asks. Who I used to be. Is the first quick reply from some other voice. But that’s not quite right.
Beyond me, again, ow-ow-ow-whooo. Within me, a question. Is it possible to miss who you will be, but haven’t yet become?
October 21, 2022 | Friday
M’s mother is quickly losing her mind, some fiery dementia burning through her brain.
“I’m afraid she’ll wander away and get lost,” M writes. But of course, she’s already wandering away.
“She wants to go home, but she is home.” Ah, but where is home really?
My father was a field engineer. For awhile, we lived in a travel trailer so my mother and I could be where ever he needed to go, which was all over the country.
Home is just wherever you are at the moment.
My grandmother called us gypsies, bringing my mother to tears. I didn’t understand the painful power of words, the cruelty of stereotypes.
When I looked up gypsy in the dictionary (ours had pictures), there was a woman wearing dangly necklaces, a lush, swirling skirt, barefoot and holding a tambourine. She looked happy. Though my mother made me wear socks and shoes, I looked down at my feet, smiling, knowing the bareness within. For months, I begged for a tambourine.
I want to give M and her mother a tambourine. But that’s not what they need.
She’s wondering, How will I get through this? I hear her Southern-ish accent speaking out of the email, also her grief, fear, worry, self-doubt, the chaos of living with a loved one’s dementia, and the looming anxiety, realizing she can no longer care for her mother alone.
M loves dogs nearly as much as her mother. Mentor in me suggests she practice DogMind.
“Let your mind be like a dog’s,” I write, “you know, where you can get in a dogfight one moment and then two minutes later trot out all waggly and happy into the sunlight without holding the fight inside or taking any of it personally.
Easier said than done. But. Just keep telling yourself: DogMind, gotta get my DogMind on.
Get through the moment, then let it go, and trot out to look at the sky with its sun or clouds or stars, panting as you remember, I am here and in this moment. I am actually okay.”
October 22, 2022 | Saturday
The mornings open darker and damper. As I flip on a flashlight to fill a bird feeder, luminous strands stretch and swoop between everything. Fine strings, they’re wet and webbing the air.
Countless tiny drops hang on, lit, slinking downward as if alive in my circle of light. Water beings, where are you going?
I’m in a maze of delicate lines and intersections, part of an artwork. Tatting? That old craft my my mother once tried to master, but not as she’d hoped. You weren’t a spider, Mama.
Hugging the jug of birdseed to my body, my eyes try to follow where the architecture leads—all of it slipping invisible into the fog at beam’s edge.
Filaments stretch from bird feeder to tree trunk, gutter to deck railing, this thread to that one mapping open space, one drops from high up in a redwood to the tip of a fern frond way below. Proof that something is always escaping?
How many of these did I step through getting to this spot? “Sorry,” I whisper, to what must be a community of ambitious spiders. Shifting the light, I look for them tucked in eaves and the furrowed bark of redwood trunks. They’re shy or sleeping.
My mind pulls a rabbit out of a hat, sort of. “The wisest and noblest teacher is nature itself.” Something Leonardo da Vinci wrote? I try to imagine him standing beside me, saying it in his Italian. Did he always wear that drapey tunic and leggings? Instead I hear, studentessa. Student, specifically a female student. Me.
Shifting the light again, scanning the silvery threads, this lesson: we are all connected even if we can’t or won’t see it.
October 23, 2022 | Sunday
All that blooms eventually browns and withers. Beyond my window where I write, what had been the green spears and papaya-colored blossoms of Crocosmia, a lily-like iris, are now dingy, dried, and drooping toward earth. Their corms in the dirt are as alive as ever, but the leaves and stick-like stalks that once were blossoms want to go back home, to their roots. Who doesn’t, at least eventually?
Here’s a mindfulness practice: learn to love what is dying and not so lovely.
Here’s a simple fact: something is alway dying, even your own cells, your skin sloughing off into your linens. So, lots of opportunities to practice being mindful and loving.
The sun is sleeping in today, so I pull on fleece and gardening gloves and head out to tidy the garden under a chilly, grey pillow of sky. I have a little Japanese sickle to slice away all that brown then haul it to the compost pile.
Just as my wrist is about to flick at the base of dead foliage, I think of the spiders and their secret highways strung all through the air yesterday morning.
I angle my face, crouching into the decay, looking for spider-strings. Ah, there they are. The desiccated remnants of summer’s flowering are held in innumerable, nearly invisible filaments.
When I reach up to brush hair from my eyes, surprise, eight legs among the strands. One spider is trying to weave me into the moment.
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