Photo by Curt Smith
Dateline June 2005—
Still daylight here in the foothills of the Coast Range in western Oregon. In fact, I think there’s a long way to go. There was a parking lot full of cars already lined up at Bald Hill Park when I drove home an hour — I think there’s some kind of solstice celebration at the top of Bald Hill peak every year — but because I am not a joiner (or at least that’s the revisionist tale I currently tell myself) I headed home to open my doors and windows, let my cats go out, and plant yellow and orange dahlias and calendulas in the few remaining terra cotta pots.
It won’t be dark for a while yet.
I feel like there’s something profound or, at the very least, pithy I should be able to post on this web site tonight. All about my day? The usual. Emotional tug-of-war at the keyboard as I struggled to find my way back to a thorny writing project. Then the opening e-mails for the online prose poem course I’m about to take. A bit of Randi Rhodes, a 30 minute power walk, meeting a friend for happy hour at Big River, the restaurant downtown on Riverfront Park. In the mail, a rejection in the mail from Sun Magazine: yet again. I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t even bother sending them my work. And a phone call from a friend who’s got her life all figured out (or so it sounds) in that she teaches in one of those low-residency writing programs so she has students and gets paid even if it does mean she has to hoof it to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania two weeks out of the year. While I sit here with a 17 year old cat who’d rather curl up on his cardboard catnip scratching toy than be out in the last rays of glory light on the deck and the highlight of my day was setting free the overweight mouse I caught in the trap under the kitchen sink.
I wish I weren’t so what? ornery? contrary? taciturn? difficult? No, that’s not it, because really I’m overall quite flexible and downright nice. I think it’s when I’m left to my own designs and certain hormones tip one side of the balance higher than the other — well, then the gloomy pill (as G. called it) side of my personality takes over and I can’t, for the life of my find a way to break out.
Of course, if I were a different person I’d reach out for better living through chemistry — prozac, zoloft, elavil, whatever the latest new improved mood-altering wonder drug is. Then, the light bulb goes on and I remember that Six Feet Under is on on Mondays instead of Sundays. How pitiful is that — that an HBO series is enough to bring radiant artificial light to my pagan solstice night?
Victory today that I remembered it was on. That Sex and the City is still slightly fun even with the sound on mute, even if I hate all four women tonight because they can wear halter dresses without bras and they have no blubber squishing up from between their shoulder blades or their upper arms. That my son called from NYC and he sounded upbeat and cheerful and was actually calling to wish J. a belated father’s day and didn’t need to talk to me, ask for money, etc. And victory, I guess, that when I looked in the leaf pile where the mouse I sprung from the trap four or five hours ago had burrowed, there was no sign of his long, skinny tail.
I expect too much of life. I expect things to feel deeper, more intense, more often, well at least once throughout the day. People to be more probing, more reflective, fascinating. Routines of each and every day to hold some silver lining of poetry and strange, excitable weirdness that makes me shake my head and say, Hey yeah, that is why I’m alive, why I’m glad I’m alive. And of course I assume the everyone else around me has it all figured out.
Meanwhile, Balthazar, the Buddha, sits on his cardboard scratch toy, calmly, serenely, contentedly. He’s 17 — how many more years do I have to learn life’s wisdom lessons from him?