The 20th century was arguably the strangest 100 years in human history, and the 21st century is shaping up to be even more unfathomably bizarre. Some pioneers of the future seem frightening and grotesque in their differentness when they show up, bringing news from the Frontier. But David Bowie was the gentlest, most decent sort of prophet, and he brought a special professionalism to his own freakishness that gave people courage. Every day of this century, we keep moving out beyond what we know, what makes us comfortable. Every cairn David Bowie left for us out there, I’ll consider a sign that we’re right where we should be.
Here are some facts about my eyes:
- I’m slightly nearsighted, which means I wear glasses, but not all the time. I’m not wearing them right now, for instance. If I left my glasses at home, I could drive to the grocery store in relative safety if I squinted the whole time.
- My aunt Sally told me a few years ago that she has but one regret: not wearing sunglasses when she was younger. Sunglasses could have prevented macular degeneration, which she has, and which requires her to get a shot in her eye every month to keep her from going blind. So I wear sunglasses because the idea of getting a shot in my eye makes me feel like there’s no blood in my body all of a sudden.
- When the eye doctor dilates my eyes, I faint.
- When I put eyeliner on, my eyes water. When somebody else puts eyeliner on me, they have to hold my head against a wall by bracing their left hand against my forehead, while their right hand smooshes hard against my cheek as they apply the eyeliner, which slips off immediately in the tears that are streaming down my face. Not many people are willing to do this, but a few people have.
So, knowing these things about my eyes, you might conclude two things:
- I only sort of need visual correction.
- I might have an eye thing.
So, yesterday I went to the optometrist. I hadn’t been in a long time–not for any good reason, like the time my mom didn’t go for 15 years because she didn’t want them to do that thing where they ping-ed a little metal ball against her eyeball, which is what they did in the old days. I just figured getting my eyes checked was a good idea, so I went.
The doctor asked me if I had ever worn contacts. I told him no, but I would be willing to try them. The kindly, elderly optometrist rummaged around in some drawers and got out a trial set of contact lenses in my prescription. He washed his hands and offered tips on maintaining good eye hygiene. He slopped a contact lens around in his palm with some solution and reached for my face saying, “Ok, young lady, I’m going to put the right one in first….”
I’m not entirely sure what happened between that instant, and the one in which I shoved him. Or what happened in between the two times discrete times I forcibly, reflexively pushed the 75 year old man away from me. I remember yelling “NO!” at some point, and I have a sense that he seemed annoyed for a very brief instant each time, and I do remember I did a lot of apologizing between shoves, and that he finally gave up, saying, “You have the strongest eye reflex I’ve ever come across.”
So, now I know! I guess I have more of an eye thing than I thought!
But this is all to say that I met somebody new yesterday. And although it’s a little unnerving that that person is just a version of me, I think it’s useful to know where your HELL NO buttons are. And evidently, one of mine is in my eye.
Happy spring, you guys. Hope you’re meeting some of your selves you never knew. And that introductions are going smoothly.
When I was little, we went car camping sometimes. I’m not sure what prompted my parents to take us–because lord knows they had enough to do–but we were taken, and I’m grateful. We got to eat sugar cereal from those wax paper-lined boxes that your were supposed to be able to saw open, pour milk into, and eat out of. There’s a story of the time my sister almost walked off a cliff in King’s Canyon. One time my dad taught me how to burn ants with a magnifying glass in the sun. Another time, my mom took us to a place in the north Georgia mountains that had just been bush hogged, and we woke up in the night to find the ground covered in green, luminescent foxfire. We rolled and played in it, and then woke up filthy dirty.
I’m not sure what it is about car camping, but I love it. I wish I was camping pretty much all the time–though, to be honest, I hate some parts of it: the packing and the yelling at people to get a move-on, and the waiting in the car, and the realizing we forgot something: a lighter, milk, an extra pair of shoes for Odessa, all the sleeping pads. I hate driving hours out of town, up nauseating stretches of mountain road. I hate getting lost on endless gravel tracks in the dark.
But once we’re there, I’m great. I’m better than great. This weekend, Bryan, Odessa, Goose and I met some friends who greeted us in the dark with quesadillas–we were all giddy that we found each other without the help of cell phones. We put the kids to bed in the tent next to a gurgling creek, and the grown ups sat in a semicircle in collapsable chairs around a sawn-off steel barrel with a fire inside it, doing hilarious impressions of other people’s kids–not in a mean way.
All that’s good. And then there’s waking up and sitting around with a cup of coffee, roundly ignoring the children who are yelling at each other about how there can’t be more than one queen of the forest, while the tent they’re tussling around in sways back and forth like a huge elephant puppet. Eventually there is a hike, and taking kids to the vault toilets that are littered with disintegrating urinal cakes, and a then the dog barfs because he got car sick on the way to the trailhead, and on the way back to camp, two married people get in a sort of mesmerizing circular discussion about whether there are enough beers in the cooler for everyone to have two tonight, and back at camp, we teach kids for the fifth and sixth time what poison ivy looks like (“leaves three and shiny? Not for your hiney.”)
My favorite part, though, is sleeping. I love sleeping in a tent, smelling like woodsmoke and whatever it is that makes tents smell the way they do. I love waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a creek, or little frogs whining, and my family’s quiet snoring. I like to get out of the tent then and feel the soft ground under my bare feet and look up into the crowns of the trees while I pee. Last night I saw a shooting star. You figure stuff out on those nights.
I can’t wait to go camping again.
1. I don’t really like to read books written before 1800 or after 1900. Except I don’t like Edgar Allen Poe or Hawthorne, so that works out nicely, because they were thought the Transcendentalists were dumb.
2. I don’t believe in predestination, and I think The Enlightenment was boring, and I support the formation of clubs, in general. Also, they were pretty much exclusively American. USA! USA! USA!
3. Calling somebody a “Transcendentalist” in the 19th century was like calling somebody a “hippie” in the 1960’s: “Go home, Transcendentalist! Put a shirt on! Get a car!” Like that. Underdogs.
4. I like to have long lunchtime conversations about just whatever, and then walk afterwards. Which seems to be mostly what they did.
5. They seem nice, and I think the Transcendentalists would probably like me, even though I don’t wake up at 4 AM in November to swim in a pond. I mean, I do actually like to swim in ponds at regular daytime hours in the summertime. And what I want to know is whether anybody actually ever SAW any of them breaking the ice on a pond and then swimming in it at 4 AM? Besides John Muir? Because I certainly wouldn’t judge Thoreau if he just said he was taking ice cold, middle-of-the-freaking-night pond baths, and actually just sleeping until 7 and then and drinking coffee and reading The Bhagavad-Gita. I mean, early morning bathing in Walden Pond might be a good thing to do if one wanted to mingle with the stupendous and sublime waters of the Ganges, but in Massachussets, nobody really expects you to do it, Henry David. Because the Ganges is probably pretty warm because it’s in India, and Walden Pond has ice on it.
Anyway, this morning I found that Ralph Waldo Emerson had a personal mission statement–a set of guiding principles, if you will–which he would refer to if he was confused about what to do in a given situation.
- I am to invite men drenched in Time to recover themselves and come out of time, and taste their native immortal air.
- I am to fire with what skill I can the artillery of sympathy and emotion.
- I am to indicate constantly, though all unworthy, the Ideal and Holy Life, the life within life, the Forgotten Good, the Unknown Cause in which we sprawl and sin.
- I am to try the magic of sincerity, that luxury permitted only to kings and poets.
- I am to celebrate the spiritual powers in their infinite contrast to the mechanical powers and the mechanical philosophy of this time.
- I am to console the brave sufferers under evils whose end they cannot see, by appeals to the great optimism, self-affirmed in all bosoms.
SELF-AFFIRMED IN ALL BOSOMS, you guys.
Self-affirmed in all bosoms. I think I might be a Transcendentalist.
We live in town–in a neighborhood, which means we have neighbors. Human neighbors.
Sometimes the neighbors are in metal bands, and practice their drums at night–double bass pedal and everything. Sometimes the neighbors burn down the shed behind their house because they definitely were not attempting to cook meth, but had just let a homeless guy sleep there, but the guy set the shed on fire on his way out. Sometimes the neighbor is a racist elderly clogger with a butterfly fixation.
Human neighbors can be complicated.
I know people who live in the woods, and when I tell them about my neighbors, they make sour faces. I don’t really blame them. In the woods, fawns caper around in your front yard, and you get coyotes choruses at night instead the dog next door, testing the nuances of the perfect echo that bounces off the hill across Hawthorne Ave. In the woods you get to complain about things like mosquitos and ticks and the fact that you can hear distant traffic noises and see the orange light in the sky from a distant town. In town, you can’t really complain because you signed up for living in town.
But what if you didn’t live in town, or in the woods or anything? What if you lived in Botswana, on the savannah where your only neighbor is a lioness who wants to hug you?
That would be different, wouldn’t it?
But I imagine lion neighbors might also be complicated, in their own way.
Dog barf, economics lessons for kindergarteners, bushwacking, mysterious fevers, Native American ceremonial mounds.
Bryan’s gone this weekend, and I’ve been in charge of holding down the old fort. Right now I’m sitting in the living room with the overhead fan going. On the floor, the fan breezes are rustling these tiny pieces of blue tissue paper around and around. They’re from an art project Dessa made and Goose shredded. Goose is our dog, and if I thought he would continue chewing at this rate into adulthood, I would start a chipping business: wood chipping, paper chipping, dog bed chipping, stuffed animal chipping. We could handle all kinds of jobs.
Speaking of jobs. Today I went to Target and Odessa wanted this attaché case with Disney princesses on it, and I made her buy it with her own money. Only she figured out that if she bought it, she would no longer have the $100 Gigi gave her in her bank account–she’d have $80. But because she’s not dumb, she wanted to have the attaché case AND still have $100. That’s just not the way it works, I said. The more stuff you buy, the less money you have. She was inconsolable. ARE WE POOOOOOR? she demanded of me in the middle of the frozen dinners aisle.
You have no idea, kid. But I didn’t say that to her. I said that we have a house and enough food and jobs that give us money every month. Then she cried because she wished I didn’t have a job and we could spend the summer together–every day–just me and her. And then she cried because people were seeing her cry at Target. It’s been that kind of weekend.
On account of the mysterious fever. I picked her up from a birthday party yesterday afternoon, and she didn’t look right. Her eyes were droopy and red rimmed and she sort of swayed in place as I approached her outside Pump It Up, which is a warehouse full of bouncy houses that children and drunk people rent out for birthday parties. Odessa’s friend’s brother told me Wyatt puked in the line between Arena A and Arena B, and he had rescued Odessa from being puked on. Actually he saved three girls, but it was no problem.
The parking lot was hot, but Odessa’s hand was feverish hot (kid fevers can only be reliably detected through their hands and feet–I don’t care what you say about cheeks and foreheads). She fell asleep on the way to the pizza restaurant and she whimpered while we waited for the pizza to cook. At home, she had a fever of 101. I gave her Tylenol and tucked her into my bed before Audrey and I watched Empire Records and marveled over the 1990’s. (The 1990’s you guys. That movie, you guys. Call me if you want to talk about 1990’s slut shaming.)
This morning, she was fine. She remains utterly fine-seeming. If you understand human bodies, please give me a call.
Or if you understand dog bodies, for that matter. Or dogs, for that matter.
Our dog–he’s a 7 month old puppy at this point–proved once again that he was not born yesterday, and he’s taken Bryan’s absence as an opportunity to do stuff he knows he’s not supposed to. He knows I’m not very observant when it comes to suspicious noises. Like yesterday morning, when there was a rustling and munching sound coming from the back porch for a good 15 minutes before I got out of bed to see what was going on. What was going on was Goose eating out of the bag of cat food I had left open when I fed the cat at 5:50 AM. He was full as a tick–by all appearances, much fuller than was comfortable–but he kept eating, because although dogs weren’t born yesterday, they don’t have sense.
So instead of leaving him die alone of canine bloat (it’s a thing), I took him on the bushwhack me and Audrey and our friend Steve did yesterday. There was a long Forest Service road, and and an old hippie campground with a fire ring you could tell too many hippies had fussed with. Goose puked quietly on both. Then we bushwacked around on a big, muddy floodplain for the better part of two hours looking for an ancient Native American ceremonial mound. And we found it, and it was worth it, but I got into some stinging nettle and poison ivy, and the ticks found me like usual because theirs is a special brand of criminal mind. Goose found a nest of four baby armadillos and puked up the rest of the cat food to celebrate.
And that’s what happened to ME this weekend.
Remember I said I’d write a haiku if I didn’t think I could write anything else? Well sorry, you guys–I guess I’m going to have to write you a haiku. I spent the day with two little girls:
Cute, huh? Well, just so you know: at the moment this picture was taken, one of these little girls was telling the other one to stop touching her. No seriously don’t touch her because her body is her body and nobody else can touch it.
Here’s my haiku:
I took you swimming
But you clung to me, blue-lipped
Like in Titanic