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I intended to go to Toronto last night, but a bad cold kept me home alone. I spent four hours writing a web content piece about Fendi perfume for The Content Authority. Most students haven't returned from holidays yet, but muted New Year's Eve in university town nonsense carried on outside nonetheless: boisterous knots of youth ambling up and down Gordon Street, squealing tires, police sirens, slamming doors, shouting, someone blaring a horn in a driveway at 3 a.m. After writing I drank two glasses of wine, sat up playing Civilization III until 4:15, then took a percocet.
Gardener Elizabeth Murray writes, we must trust the fallow time of winter. Seeds and roots need cold, dark, wet conditions to rest and break dormancy.
In ancient times people needed myths to explain natural processes such as the change of seasons. The Greeks blamed Hades for kidnapping Persephone and tricking her into eating pomegranate seeds. Condemned to return eternally to the underworld, summer became confined to the few months when she roamed sunlit lands.
Now we know perfectly well why winter happens. Some people still hold fiercely onto certain myths, especially those involving death and morality, things we can't see.
I'm grappling with the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. Supposedly the source of unhappiness in our lives comes from attachment to ideas about who we are, how we should live better, and so on. How can I rid my mind of ideas? I'm a writer! Ideas are the products I would sell. I would like to make a living at it. If I dispense with ideas how will I pay for food and lodging. Apparently I only need these things because I think I do. I'm attached to the worldly notion that I need this bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.
Barry Lopez loves language. Besides evocative descriptive passages, the reader can find good use of vocabulary.
"...compiling names in the sometimes inimical catalogues of science..."
According to the Free Online Dictionary:
1. Injurious or harmful in effect; adverse
2. Unfriendly; hostile
"With flamingos stretched out in lugubrious flight over its fur seal grottoes..."
Mournful, dismal or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree
He used both in describing the Galapagos Islands. I remember him using lugubrious in another essay to illustrate dimly lit waters off the coast of Belaire. I don't recall meanings as well as I used to.
How strange. After almost exactly one year of writing 100 words without fail first thing in the morning, I missed a day. I wan't too busy, in fact I had decided to take a day off while my boss is on vacation, and that is exactly what I did. A day to work on various writing projects and go knitting with Lori. I remember seeing the 100 words tab in my browser and thinking, "I'll do that first," but somehow it got lost in the shuffle. Here I am a day later trying to think what I would have said.
It's strange that I could miss a day when it has become such a meaningful part of my morning routine. I guess it goes to show how much more writing I am doing now than a year ago. It fills my days. Otherwise I could not have forgotten 100 words.
Anyway, Lori and I went to knit and chat at All Strung Out yesterday afternoon. I always count on getting extra work done during social knits because it's easy to sit still for an hour, but then I always make a mistake and spend most of the time correcting it.
For the first time since I resumed writing for 100 Words a year ago, I have not chosen a theme for the month. Even back in 2003 and 2004 I would choose a word like water. Then each entry had to refer to water somehow. Many of the references were cryptic. At the end of the month when I posted a link to the entries in my blog, I would ask my friends to guess the theme. The first person to guess correctly would receive a small gift in the mail.
These mornings I don't know what to write about.
I rarely remember my dreams. It doesn't require much effort. If I keep a notebook beside my bed and tell myself before I go to sleep at night, "You will dream, and you will remember your dreams," I usually do. They might come in half-hearted fragments at first, but the process of remembering and recording usually begins to draw them out more fully. This requires planning and intention, which I haven't had time for lately.
My friend Ziggy has recorded her dreams for years. It's amazing how much she remembers and how readily she interacts with her dream world.
A few days ago I dreamt simply about finding an unfamiliar deck of cards in my apartment. They were green with little flowers on the back.
I can easily interpret my own dreams. All I have to do is start writing and the symbolism became apparent. I associate cards with the Tarot and divination. The dream suggests I need to start remembering my dreams because they offer a good source of guidance and insight into my psyche.
An additional meaning: I must seek to draw out my younger daughter's best qualities. She likes to play cribbage, and the colour green.
Slug sounds like a contraction of "slow bug". Bug usually serves as slang for an insect or other small critter with more than four legs. Most bugs skitter. Sl'ugs lack legs, but that doesn't explain why they take forever. Snakes slither. Bugs skitter. Sl'ugs slide slowly. Their ancestors led aquatic lives like everyone's, but most of us evolved hard cases, dead skin layers, or rigid skeletons adapted to terrestrial life. Even snails had enough sense to bring their shells. Sl'ugs just slide in a pool of mucous. I would remain in my pool of sheets to slide through the day.
Who will go with you on this long, cold journey through the dark? Ultimately, you must travel naked, penniless and alone. People can avail themselves of friendship and association, but it always begins with you. If you play the game of helpless forever, eventually you fall off the edge of the map of trails where no one can find you, where potholes and ravines cut through the blind wilderness. You must learn to be a snail and carry a home on your back. Wherever you find yourself, there you must create a modicum of comfort and nourishment to sustain yourself.
This is the worst anxiety in more than a year. A year ago I stopped seeing the therapist and I felt things were okay. 2010 had bumps, but nothing I couldn't manage. They would pass. This, I can't manage. Fortunately I have a doctor's appointment today, because this morning I've been fluctuating between moderate depression and intense agitation.
It's about money and employment, wanting down time, not being able to take a holiday, can't afford time off. Being unable to concentrate or work. Forced time off. Not enough money. Feeling lost and helpless.
A few days ago I was well.
My mind like a razor incises the soft veil of dream world. Serenity bursts. Worry trickles down the seam. I try to sew it up, stuff thoughts out of sight again. Why am I avoiding?
I just want to sleep! "Go away and come back tomorrow!"
I set down book and reading glasses, turn off the light, roll over, tuck a pillow between my thighs to fend off sciatica, and hug the triangular purple corduroy one to ease my shoulder.
Out of nowhere, a blonde woman scurries up and licks my face. "Just trying to cheer you up!" she squeals.
It is 4:49 a.m. and I have been awake for about an hour and a half. I normally feel animosity toward insomnia because it causes stress and discomfort. This morning I receive it with openness, allowing it to draw me out of rest into the ecstatic space where creative tension flexes and sparks. I lit a candle and wrote in my handwritten winter season journal until thoughts ran out. Now I feel my mind pulling me down (I took 200 mg of melatonin) into a blanket of shadow but I doubt it will carry me to sleep again.
The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook insists down time and time management are two of the most important practices you can implement to achieve a more relaxed lifestyle. It suggests you allow one hour a day, one day a week, and one week every 12 to 16 weeks for down time. This should include three Rs: rest, recreation and relationship time. I habitually do enough recreation, but not enough rest. My brain never stops going. Sleep doesn't count. We also need time to lie on the couch, daydream, take a catnap. I must try to introduce daily meditation into my routine.
The time off is helping. I can't remember last time I laughed aloud, but during the previous two days I did so twice over things I saw online. Deep breathing and meditation exercises probably help as much as anything, even just 15 minutes.
I sit in the big green armchair, back as straight as possible, palms on thihgs. I begin by relaxing my neck muscles: first three slow tips chin to chest, then three arches backward, left ear to shoulder three times, right ear to shoulder, three turns counterclockwise as far as I can go, and finally three turns clockwise.
Next I do the deep breathing exercise, keeping my eyes closed.
1. Breathe in while counting to five.
2. Hold it, counting to five.
3. Exhale while counting to five.
4. Breathe twice normally.
5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 ten times.
After this exercise, I meditate for a few minutes. I imagine sitting on the dock at the cottage on a calm day and watching the undulating surface of the water, a hypnotic pattern of cloud white, sky blue, deep forest green and shades of grey. When thought intrude, I usher them gently away like clouds across the sky.
At 3 in the afternoon the Canada geese all rest on the ice, heads under wings, as if night will never come and they have all the hours of the day. One rises up suddenly. Battering its wings against the air it honks and plods to the scalloped edge, then stands there, gazing forlornly into the dark, frigid stream. Several have already gone down to bathe. They scoop icy water onto their backs. It runs off the oiled feathers like strings of crystal. Back on the ice shelf the dozens keep their heads tucked tightly against the prospect of cold.
I recall snatches of dreams, but they're tedious. Finding lost underwear? Where are the fantastic action adventures of my youth?
I'm Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fossey in the 23rd Century. With my big phaser, I board a cargo ship carrying wildlife illegally trapped in the last vestiges of Earth's ecosystems. They're bound for zoos in the Alpha Centauri system. I round up the pirates, set them adrift in my little shuttle in deep space with no fuel, and turn the big ship back toward Earth.
When a baby bird hatches, I don't know what to do. Testosterone Woman has meltdown.
The mind is a marvellous thing. It evolved as an invaluable tool to help us navigate a complex ecology. In the old days it preoccupied itself principally with search and acquisition of whatever the body needed for survival. A friend of mine suggests curiosity offers greater fulfilment, as an emotion, than happiness. Nature designed us to be curious. Happiness does not come so easily. In fact, dissatisfaction serves us better in the course of living.
Consciousness is not particularly qualified to search or understand itself, yet that is what I delight in doing. It feels like exploring a vast cavern.
I thought it would be interesting to try recording dreams here. If you start recording them it will open a channel and help you remember more. I kept a dream journal for a while when I was a kid, and have resumed for short periods at different times. It is a fertile field. I can often decipher what my dreams mean. This morning I remembered an elaborate dream, first one in a long while. It concerned playing beach ball and later some kind of AIDS memorial ceremony. 100 words can't do justice to such a dream. I blogged it instead.
It felt delicious to lie in bed until 8:30 this morning, awake the last hour. Thoughts drifted through my head, but I didn't pay attention to them. My emotions melded with the futon and the simple comfort of having Danny nearby. This qualifies as rest according to
The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook
. I could try setting my alarm earlier to allow this kind of down time during the work week, but then I would get stressed about not having enough sleep. A little relaxation when I get home from work makes better sense.
We visited the Royal Ontario Museum yesterday, my first visit since the ugly Crystal opened. We had visited two other exhibits and were wandering in search of beverages and a snack, when through a doorway I glimpsed a huge shimmering curtain hanging from a wall. It turned out to be made of aluminum bottle caps by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. The exhibit gave a retrospective of his career. The older wooden sculptures often employ Adinkra symbols to evoke a sense of esoteric history. It made me long to break out my Prismacolor pencils and tell visual secrets of my own.
Look for symbols in wood and stone, word stories on paper, a march of characters across the screen. A labyrinth represents a journey to the heart of a matter. Enter with a question. Your feet trace the answer in lines and corridors. You must listen to the voice rising out of the soil or stone as your slippers scuff the rough patina of their surfaces. The corners mark small victories, part of a circuit completed, or a new direction taken. A labyrinth follows certain repeated patterns, but a maze suggests a freer style of living with rooms and dead ends.
Behind the rows of city houses snakes a labyrinth of back alleys. Once they provided service access for garbage trucks, but now they have fallen quiet. Every residence presents its back end for sniffing, yet this feels much more civilized than the suburbs, where everyone shifts garage asses forward. By contrast, these alleys feel gentle and clinical. Everyone is equally exposed to the enigmatic mockery of graffiti artists, tricksters in the night who spray truth across our backsides. One resident has painted her garage door with folk artsy daises. Coyote, welcoming any act of contribution, however naive, leaves it alone.
We come together every Tuesday evening. Something might prevent one or two from attending, but essentially four of us are committed to this regular meeting of the imaginations: a struggling poet who makes a living building pipe organs, an unemployed business communications professional, a zoology grad student studying sea anemones, and an undergrad English major. Sometimes one must move on, but a new one will always come. We boil, we brew, we dish the magic of words, throw them up in the air, spin them, and see how they fall. I begin to hope my work will come to something.
I go back to work this morning. I've dreaded it, but it's not so bad. I could have slept better; I could have slept worse.
The name of the game this year is simplicity. So I will try keeping my mornings simple instead of cramming so much into them before I leave for work. After a shower and fixing some breakfast, if I only have time to write 100 words, so be it. My goal is to get to work early so I can leave early and have plenty of time to pursue other purposes in the afternoon and evening.
Along Speed River Trail I found a place in the woods where you glimpse shallow water off in the distance, sparkling through gaps between trunks of statuesque cedars. I approached. The shallow stream widens at that point, spilling over shoals and dancing a graceful arc around a gentle backwater. Some cedars, disturbed at their roots, bend over the water as if to embrace it. The place feels as peaceful and intimate as an act of lovemaking.
Restless in bed last night, I was tempted to get up and return to the river's boudoir. I want to see it by moonlight.
Thought records can serve as a tool to rescript dysfunctional thinking. They help you practice replacing self-destructive automatic thoughts with more constructive ones. You have to believe the alternatives. I have used them with mixed success to address anxiety and depression.
I realized yesterday many autmoatic thoughts that cause me anxiety are not verbal; they are visual. In my mind's eye I replay personal encounters, recalling body language and facial expressions more than what was said.
Likewise, I have trouble putting my dreams into words. I can remember the bizarre architecture, but often it is too baroque to describe.
We went into Suspect Video looking for something else, but they only had it in VHS.
Danny said, "What else would you like to see?"
So I stood gazing off into space for a moment.
"Oh, I know!
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
"There it is," he said.
And it was: on a low shelf, not 20 centimetres from my right knee. We watched it last night, a memorable film. It manages to be poignant without a trace of sappiness, befitting the man. It delves into his apparent addiction to prescription drugs, difficult personal relationships, and ironic humour.
Perhaps consciousness evolved so beautiful creative minds could ask, "Why?" The slow movement of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony presents one of the most eloquent expressions of the question. I tried listening to the entire symphony in the car last night, but had to interrupt it a few minutes into the slow movement. My mind kept wandering elsewhere. I simply cannot listen to it without complete concentration. Instead I slipped into the CD player the scherzo of the Ninth Symphony, which transported me. It is comparably barbaric to certain passage of Stravinsky's
The Rite of Spring
The Tip Jar