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


Allan Stellar said...

So you are glad you didn't turn into a Greedhead? I am too. What did you think of Finding Abbey? I was disappointed he found the grave (although I'm told it isn't much of a secret). And frankly, I am tired of reading books written by English Professors. The books tend to be too stylized. Too navelish. Too something I can't put my finger on. I like books written by people who have had a life outside of Academia. Somebody who, like you, have had challenges. Experienced poverty. Heartbreak. Tenure makes people soft intellectually. Why don't you write something?

greentangle said...

Hi Allan, I'm not sure I believe he actually found the grave, but if he did I'm glad he at least didn't include accurate directions. I enjoyed my visits to Thoreau's grave but that's in a cemetery--the desert doesn't need the traffic. As for the book, even if you couldn't put your finger on it, I know just what you mean in this case. I made a trip to St Paul shortly after I read the book and resold it there.

I rarely even feel like I have anything worth putting on the blogs, and my journal has become little more than a weather report. My writing days are mostly done except when a specific book or moment strikes me.