Saturday, October 24, 2015

I Agree with George Bush (pick one)

One of them doesn't like Cruz and the other one can't understand how anyone can support Trump after all his vile comments. But what I especially agree with is Bush the elder saying that he's getting old at just the right time, although it's different societal changes which make us feel that way. Of course, he's more than thirty years older than me, but fortunately I'm not rich and powerful so I won't have to live as long as him. 

The other day I searched for a name from my past as I'm prone to do when drinking and bored with the internet (I also write posts like this one). I stumbled across a PDF of one of my college yearbooks and then found the other three. I saved them and looking through them has been an amusing memory trip.

A few things I learned or remembered--

I liked to pose for photos with my shirt off in those days, a sight I wouldn't subject my worst enemy to these days. One I didn't remember (it will soon be clear why) was my sophomore year dorm floor photo, an all male dorm, an all hippie floor (most of them were seniors and it was a different place after they graduated). Amidst the bongs and glazed eyes, I wear a towel and a canteen and hold a sign I can't read or recall. The guy behind me reaches around to grab my nipple. By the time my senior year coed floor photo was taken outside the town train station, I was more subdued, sitting in a chair, smoking a pipe, but still baring my chest. 
The woman I planned to marry after college was a cheerleader one year--I didn't recall that at all. I thought I'd had to wait a few years to date a former cheerleader--now there are two!
There's a photo of me and a woman watching a softball game. I told her she was one of the two most beautiful women I'd ever known (the other was a blue-eyed blonde in a bikini when I was a teenager). We had our moments at Senior Serenade (a tradition in which seniors got drunk and then sang at various dorms). It happened to fall on my birthday and I'd just won an election (the college president immediately banned me from meetings my predecessors had attended--my writing had already given me a reputation) so I was primed for a good night. I clearly recall a moment standing in the bar with one arm around this woman and the other around her roommate (who I was also quite fond of) and thinking that it would never get any better than this. It really didn't. After we staggered back to our dorm, I suggested a birthday kiss and we crashed kissing through the doors of a lounge which was full of people.

Although we all look very young, some of us are long dead including a great woman who died of cancer a couple years after we graduated. The rest of us are getting old at just the right time.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Losing Myself

While I wrote some of the following, there was a pigeon lying a few feet away on my window ledge. Because of the angle of the window blind, I didn’t notice her until I changed my position. Might be a metaphor, could be the moral.

For a couple years now, I’ve known that if everything remained the same, 2016 would be the year I wound up homeless. I haven’t seemed to care enough to do anything to change that—I’m getting to be an old man, starting to wear down physically, but especially mentally, from the grinding of the days. Low level depression has often been part of my life but this has been less depression than weariness. The closest I’ve come to hope is that I might die in my sleep before I couldn’t pay the rent.

I’ve been lacking my love of nature, the animality of youth when I ran through childhood woods and later Boston’s parks, the openness to falling in love or learning new ideas, the connection and power of new music. My walks have started to be as much about what’s aching as about appreciating nature.

I had an unrealistic idea that an ex, her dog, and a smaller town might rejuvenate my life but I’ve become so inward and self-absorbed that I have trouble making conversation, and I think I only had one good play session with the dog while I was there for a couple weeks recently. 

At the end of Walking Down the Wild, Gary Ferguson wrote of carrying his dying mother around her yard at her request, and the serenity which he saw cut through her pain as she watched a cardinal, and ran her fingers over the young leaves of maples and dogwoods. 

I can still feel the same way, but first I have to force myself to look. It has seemed that the leaf palette has been particularly impressive this year, and there have been a couple spectacular sunsets and sunrises lately. On this warm morning there was a ladybird beetle irruption outside the grocery store—I think one actually bit me, which was a new experience.

Earlier this week, I walked a favorite four mile loop for the second time in four days after not having done it for months. On the way home I stopped for a late breakfast. As I waited for my food, I divided my time between watching the sun glimmering on the beautiful Lake, the birds at a corner of the roof, and the book I’d just begun reading, Finding Abbey. At the next booth a couple businessmen had closed the window blind and discussed markets and portfolios. As worn out as I may often feel, as much as I sometimes think I’ve wasted some aspect of my life, I’m still glad I lived it my way instead of their way. I just wish I’d done it more so.

I’m in the application process for a couple jobs which would be somewhat life-changing, one a half-time job here at more than double my current pay rate, which would give me the best of both possible worlds of working little and still covering all expenses. I’ve also applied for a few jobs in Yellowstone next summer (even though I think it will be an overcrowded horror show next year for the NPS centennial), and am considering applying for a couple in Glacier when they get posted in a few weeks. I don’t expect to know about any of them until December.

Yellowstone has already had its most annual visits even with three months still to add to the total. I’m not sure what NPS is thinking as they acknowledge parks are getting too crowded at the same time they run advertising and other promotions to get more people to come. And almost all of these extra people coming are ones who know nothing about how to behave around wildlife and have no real respect for wild land. I’ve read lots of complaints online about traffic and crowds in the parks this year—it’s not just a Yellowstone issue; the Utah parks have had big problems and Glacier is approaching a record. Many of the complaints agree with me that the extra money should be used to hire more rangers to actually ticket wildlife harassers, speeders, and other violators instead of “educating” them.

Terry Tempest Williams wrote about Richard Jefferies in her introduction to The Story of My Heart, “He was a lover of beauty. This is what we forget. Beauty is what opens our eyes to love. Love ignites passion and passion is what propels us toward the future wrought with risk and uncertainty.”

In my life, I didn’t have any trouble appreciating beauty or feeling love but passion has always been difficult for me to show in a positive way. I can remember my therapist in Boston once becoming enthused when I’d let some slip out, and how good I felt at that moment, but I’ve generally always felt a need to stay under control and not risk showing how I really felt in order to survive in this society. That’s not likely to change at this point in my life as I drift farther away from the mainstream all the time, but I have to remember to enjoy the beauty.

My fellow former Bostonian and crush Patty Griffin has a new album Servant of Love which seems to get better every time I listen. From the song There Isn’t One Way:

Make your way with little harm
For everything is charmed
Everything is alive
Or it once was

Be thankful for the sun
Be thankful for the blues
For the gold in your ears
For the holes in your shoes

You will never ever, never ever
Come this way again
Be in awe, my friend
’Cause it’s amazing