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Today marks the beginning of an experiment with my ENC 1101 class. I have assigned them all the task of completing one month of 100 words during September or October. I told them to write about whatever they want, to let their imaginations run wild. Some of them actually seem to be enjoying themselves. I hope that my experiment shows them that writing can be fun and therapeutic at the same time. I hope that, many years from now, they will log in and read the words that reflect how they were feeling during their first semester of college.
Every morning, I fill the thirteen critter feeders in my back yard. I have two feeders for dried corn for squirrels, two lidded feeders for squirrels (the squirrels have to lift a lid to access food), a tube feeder for birds, a tray feeder for whomever, a peanut pellet feeder, two bird cake feeders, and two artsy-fartsy feeders that came from MOMA and J Schatz. I put better food in those two. I love to watch my yard fill up with life, with birds squawking and squirrels jumping limb to limb. Birds line up for the refreshing bird bath.
"Night swimming deserves a quiet night," plays in my head as I float silently in the pool, looking up at a crescent moon and the billions of pins of light beyond it. Every breath lifts me slightly as the buoyant air fills my lungs. I see a bright star in the dark distant reaches of my perception. I imagine a planet that calls this star "sun." Floating, sounds muffled by water, I wonder if, floating on her back in a far away pool, her hearing dimmed by flooded ears, there is someone gazing out into the universe, wondering about me.
Sundays are days for brunch with friends. They're for movie hopping and laughing and sharing. Sometimes, however, they turn out bad. Friends squabble and then won't talk. The friction of life rubs between them, driving them apart. What happens when someone loses a good friend? I hope I don't discover the answer through another experience, but sometimes that's what is going to happen. I don't look forward to it, and I certainly don't welcome it, but I also don't control it. I must accept that, but I don't like it. I don't like that it's not entirely up to me.
Today is Labor Day, one of the many things workers owe to the presence of unions. I serve on my union's council, and I think that we do an important job of standing up for our members' rights and representing their best interests. In August, after months of bargaining, we finally completed the negotiation of our three-year contract. We didn't get everything we wanted, and the other side didn't get everything it wanted, but that's what negotiation is all about. Each side has to compromise something. While serving with my union, I have gotten to know some wonderful people.
I'm getting so fed up with people posting all this pro-Trump bullshit on Facebook. I used to be friends with some of these people, but time has passed and we could never be friends now. It's not necessarily that they support Trump, but it's the propensity to post silly stuff without first vetting it for accuracy. I suppose people are apt to believe things that they want to be true so much that they're willing to overlook all evidence to the contrary. It's become so juvenile that I'm going to have to stop the cycle. No more responses. Maybe.
I watch Judy Judy pretty regularly, and I love the fact that she routinely corrects litigants' grammar. As a teacher, I am saddened that so many people seem incapable of speaking or writing correctly. It vexes me so. Sometimes I use grammar as a weapon, wielding it like a sword to dispatch a comma splice or a dangling modifier. I lie in wait for a student to say "my mama house;" then I spring into action, explaining the importance of 's in writing possessives. I cringe each time i see an "I" not capitalized. Is there something wrong with me?
The raspy voice strains from the other side of the fence: "Who's there? I need some milk. And beef jerky." I don't recognize this voice. No one lives at the house on the other side of the fence. I slowly, quietly, back up and hide in the garage. I stand on my tippy toes to try to see who is over there, but I see only the top of the scalp peaking over the fence. It looks like a faded toy basketball, one that was won at a fair. Tufts of greyish yellow hair sprout on the scalp's peak. Hmmm.
Today, like most Fridays, I spent time with Oliver, the 1-year-old son of my cousin's daughter. I want to make sure that he knows me, so we can hang when he's older. I want to take him, like I took his mother and aunt when they were kids, on nature walks to look for animals. I hope to teach him to love being outside, to have a fertile imagination, to want to learn. I want to take him to see art, and music, and plays. He's now starting to walk, and he always seems happy to see me.
I woke up early, so I could work in my back yard. Even though it was hot, I accomplished almost as much as I'd hoped I would. I enjoy the smell of dirt, the gritty feel of it under my fingernails. It has a somewhat sweet odor, thick with the aroma of potential life. Dirt is always under our feet, yet we rarely think of it. We depend on it for our food, but we hate to track it in the house. When I plant seeds in it, I wait with apprehension to see what springs forth from its darkness.
Fifteen years ago today, I was sitting at my desk when a coworker ran in to my office to say a plane hit the World Trade Center. I went down the hall to watch the news reports on a small television and saw a second plane hit. I kept bird and squirrel food in my office, so I decided to go out and feed the critters.
This morning, as I filled the feeders in my backyard, I thought of that distant day. So much has changed for me: I now have a house of my own and another job.
I am not the person I imagine myself to be. In my most optimistic daydreams, I am thinner, more confident, better adjusted, and supremely spontaneous. I don't need to be concerned about getting home to watch television; instead, I'm impulsive and fun, and other people long to be around me. I laugh freely and wholeheartedly and don't concern myself with the funny noises I might make. In my imagination, all my friends are true. I have to wonder why I don't make my real self more like my imaginative self. It is in my power to do this. I think.
It's the tightness in the throat, the burning in the chest. It's the feeling of worthlessness that covers and smothers, like a blanket on a hot muggy night. It's doubting friends and suspecting that they are organizing against me. It's feeling paranoid, thinking that I'm being watched and scrutinized. The pills don't chase it away any more. Taking them has become an empty morning ritual.
Depression has haunted me for decades, and I know I will never completely shake it, no matter how hard I try. It has become a dependable friend, one who sits with me at night.
In the midst of this crazy political environment, I have found myself in multiple, frustratingly stupid Facebook arguments with people I don't know and never want to know. I don't understand the hypocrisy with which the Republican party, particularly its evangelical Christian wing, perceives Donald Trump. He's a thrice married, philandering egotist. He completely objectifies women. He and his family pillage his "foundation" for cash. His two older sons enjoy killing endangered animals and posing with their carcasses. He has no talent for thoughtful contemplation. He blurts out whatever comes to mind. What is the hold he has over them?
While I'm writing this, I'm listening to the speech that David Foster Wallace gave called "This is Water." I have shown the abridged video to my classes for years, but this is the first time I've listened to the entire thing. This speech is so insightful and inspirational, and it has really affected the way that I try to live. He made me realize that I have choices to make all of the time. I can choose to decide what to care about. I can't manage to keep my cool all of the time (mostly driving), but I am trying.
David Foster Wallace claims that most adults who commit suicide with firearms nearly always shoot themselves in the head, the terrible master. He posits that most of these suicides are dead long before they pull the trigger. They are slaves to their heads with the natural default setting of being imperially alone.
Having struggled with depression for essentially all of my adult life, I often think that my demise may come at my own hand. Sometimes it's all too much. Waves of sorrow and anxiety crash onto the shore of my being, and they certainly will eventually drown me.
I am cursed with an exceptional memory. It haunts me. It keeps a thousand windows open in my brain. All of them constantly run and can be easily accessed at the sound of a song, the glimpse of a chachki, or the sweet smell of a perfume. In a moment, I'm at my seventh birthday party, playing a game of drop a clothespin in a bottle. A song takes me to the time when I was 14, my mother driving me to a doctor's appointment. A smell of Angel perfume (my mother's favorite) takes me to her last day alive.
Life before death is what we should care about. We should be concerned about how we treat each other, how we treat the other animals on this Earth, and how we treat the Earth itself. Oftentimes, it seems as if people who have their eyes fixed on some afterlife forget about the life that is laid out before them. They seem to forget that, before they get to, what? Heaven? Paradise? Valhalla? that they need to navigate through this flesh and blood life first. The things we do here matter, probably more than any potential phantom future in the stars.
When I was a nanny to my cousin's two daughters more than twenty years ago, I would let them watch edgy stuff. Sure, they would see Disney, but I would also let them watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It has remained one of their favorites. While many people might be horrified that I would let a 7 and 9 year old watch Rocky, I think they benefitted greatly from it. They have grown up to be smart, articulate, politically aware, and appreciative of art and film. i just watched it again, and it made me remember those good days.
When the hawk swoops down and snags a tiny mouse, the ground weeps blood, feathers, and fur. The squirrels breathe a sigh of relief that they were spared from the sharp talons. This time. The Blue Jays sound a warning call, and other animals run for cover. Sometimes I think the Blue Jays realize that the feeders are full, and they sound the shrill call of danger just to get the other animals away from the feeders. They want to eat before everything is picked over, just as we do when we go to Sweet Tomatoes. Blue Jays are sneaky.
The days are slowly growing shorter, and tomorrow at 10:21am EDST, the Autumnal Equinox occurs. The balance of day and night is always to be celebrated, and we get to do it twice a year. In my life, I've experienced it 118 times. I always want to be aware of the changing seasons, even though it's somewhat difficult in Florida. Still, I go to my deck and gaze on the beautiful plants and animals and remember that we are all part of the same change. The Earth's relation to the sun at this moment will never be the same.
Today, at 10:21 EDST, we pass through an ancient cosmic ritual as our Earth's relationship with the sun shifts to a different angle. It brings us autumn. It brings those in the southern hemisphere spring. How many people actually realize that the planet that we're all tethered to as it races through space and time changes everyday. We celebrate Gaia on this day. We celebrate the nature of routine change. We celebrate all that is hopeful. But we don't because most people trudge through their lives with their eyes down, never casting a gaze toward what makes this beautiful.
As I teacher, I'm somewhat frustrated that most of my students will never know what school was like before computers, mobile phones, Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, and Instagram. They've probably never experienced that special thrill of being asked by the teacher to clean the chalk board. They have most likely never used a card catalogue at the library, or microfiche racing by on a lit screen at a pace that causes motion sickness. They've probably never been to a drive-in theater that provides speakers that hang inside the window of the car. They have so much; they've lost so much.
Why have my lottery numbers not come in yet? I really find it difficult to believe that I haven't won a significant jackpot yet. I play every day, and I have for a good while now. Sure, I've won a little here and there, but not enough. When I die, if it's possible, I'm going to try to make my numbers come in for my friend. I'll transport myself to the location of the lottery drawings and use my spirit fingers to force the balls into the shoots. First the 1, and then the 6, 7, 10, 19, and 25.
I like to hang out at the Hub, a dive bar in downtown Tampa. The drinks are strong and delicious. The music is good. The place is a dump, but the people are so nice. I used to take my Uncle Warren there a couple of times each week. He loved to talk to people, and the Hub patrons would sit and converse with him and seemingly never tire of answering the same questions again and again. Uncle Warren must have asked Charles, one of the owners, how tall he was a hundred times. Charles always answered with a smile.
I have volunteered with the Hillary campaign about four or five times, mostly by attempting to register voters. Most of the time, people are very nice, thanking me for asking them. Other times, obnoxious people attempt to get into a screaming match about how great Trump is. I refuse to engage in this. I will talk to anyone about it, but I don't want any discussion to escalate to shouting. Last night, a Trump volunteer spoke with us. I asked him what was the one thing about Trump that does it for him. He said he's a business owner. Period.
The main reason I support Hillary is that the next president will nominate two or three supreme court justices. The names that Trump has floated would be, as Trump himself would say, DISASTERS. I don't want the court to turn back on marriage equality, but I do want the court to overturn Citizen's United. We cannot go back on Roe v Wade. We cannot turn our backs on science. We must move forward on common sense gun control. None of this will happen under Trump. He's a clown. A charlatan. A liar. A sexist. A racist. He is not fit.
I miss my dog so much. She died on April 26, and I have missed her every day since then. I went to the Humane Society several times to look for a new dog, but I couldn't find one that would make my heart ache any less for my baby, Vegas. On her last day, I gave her steak and eggs for breakfast. She didn't eat it. I took her to the park for a walk and let her eat as much grass as she wanted. I stopped at Boston Market on the way home to get chicken for her.
I called Lap of Love, a service that sends a veterinarian to the home to euthanize pets. While Vegas was pooped out, I got her squeaky ball and played with her for about ten minutes before the vet arrived. I took her outside and she chased the ball through the yard, enjoying her last moments. The last time I threw the ball, she struggled to bring it back on her tired legs. We went inside, and I put her on the sofa (her favorite spot). While I stroked her soft fur, the vet gave her an injection. She slipped away.
Today marks the last day of an assignment I gave to my students to write every day for the month of September. I see them working on their entries during class. Some of them have told me that they have enjoyed participating in this challenge. I hope that this experience has shown them that writing can be fun and therapeutic. In 2002, I completed seven or eight months of entries. It's really interesting to look back at those and see how much--or how little--things have changed since then. Good luck to my students; I wish you well. Congratulations.
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