Sugar and Spice

Five thirty.

The morning is still benighted for two more hours, but even so, I might go to the store at opening time: six o’clock, and see Michelle. What makes a nice person nice and a mean person not nice? Michelle is made of sugar and spice, in accord with the old nursery rhyme. In colloquial French, the word for “nice” is sympathique; and “mean” is mechante. And the person who wears a frown is malheureuse. The rain is forecast to start again at noon today. It’s warm enough outside to go without a jacket. I think Aesop would probably like to get more chicken strips, so I’ll oblige him if they still have those. Pretty soon I will leave the house and just pretend there’s an invisible sun in the sky.

Six fifty five. I heard about Michelle’s weekend while I was at the store. More out of control stuff; her life seems quite unmanageable, so I hope she gets some help. Perhaps she’s been a little too nice and not assertive enough with the people who push her buttons. People generally talk about their “spiritual leader” nowadays, but I’m very skeptical of this, of course. No supernatural power is going to take control over your life and make everything better. It’s all up to you to take the wheel and drive your life like a car, with as many passengers as you wish. Even God can take a back seat if you must have one. I won’t go to hell for saying so, either… Now the sun pushes over the rim across the street from me, illuminating gray clouds. The gibbous moon was directly overhead when I went out an hour ago, accompanied by a few stars through an opening in the cloud canopy. Nature is enough. 

Cloudburst on My Street

Nine ten.

I told Aesop I’d feed him at nine fifteen, but I might hold off just a little bit longer. He’s getting a drink of water right now. Echoes of last night’s service rise to my mind, specifically the “hold us in love” part of the Holden Evening Prayer. I think there’s a food pantry this morning, but going to church tomorrow should be enough for me. I made a point of attending the memorial for Katie because she was my friend. I’ve been to the little store and seen Heather. Didn’t get rained on, though the air looks kind of blue. I put on a pair of very lightweight slip on shoes that feel comfortable to me because it’s about utility and not so much fashion. Aesop is waiting patiently for his breakfast. Some idiot is mowing his lawn when he’ll probably get wet. It’s not what I would choose to do. The greens outside are really green from the gray day, but it’s getting quite dark suddenly. Maybe he’ll say, “Retreat!” and quit his project.

Ten o’clock. The dog is fed now while the darkness out there grows and a cloudburst looks inevitable. “Into the cloudburst naked / I wanna get my face wet / It’s been buried in the sun for years.” I wonder what Thomas Dolby thinks of the pandemic? I’d really love to know. His lyrics dealing with history are so spot on; depressing but very good, very deep. Now the rain is coming down and the sound of the lawnmower has ceased. Welcome to Oregon weather. 

Pathos

Four fifty. I’m going to Katie’s memorial service tonight. Tim is picking me up at six forty. I’ve had a rough afternoon because I listened to the CD this morning, opening up an emotional can of worms. Then I wallowed in pathos for a few hours, thinking of my mother, to whom I was very close. I guess I can snap out of it when it’s time to go to the church. Until then I’m just killing time, waiting for the sun to go down. I really can’t put my parents down for being hedonists. The church has me in a tight spot, and I tend to sympathize still with my parents and not with my sister. I’m not going to manage to be very rational today. Sometimes that’s okay. But it’s not my usual mental state to be soppy and maudlin. If I could just make the music stop.

Six o’clock. It won’t be long now. 

Thursday Thumbnail

Ten twenty five.

Aesop and I slumbered in this morning, and my brain was full of ominous and obscure thoughts. But when I finally got up, the world was kind to me. I had 13 emails unread and my trip to the market went fine. It was warm enough out for me to go without a jacket. The rain won’t start until around two o’clock, and then it’ll be constant for another week or more. The day is gray and green punctuated by trees that are turning gold or red. My brother has been on my unconscious mind lately, and what a pity how he is alienated from the family. I was thinking of him when I picked up a book of writings of naturalism. I might read more of it today; I have plenty of time today for reading or whatever. Aesop was hungry and scarfed down his breakfast with gusto a little while ago. A shaft of sunlight hits the ground under the magnolia tree. On the street I passed a couple of cats, a gray one and one black and white. A tree frog creeks in my backyard. I also saw two doves perched on the power lines behind a house on my street. I thought of climate change and its effects on the wildlife here and everywhere. When the food supply runs short, birds and animals go where it is more plentiful— obviously. So we see species in town we’d never seen before: woodpeckers and doves, for example. Wild turkeys can be seen around the city, especially Downtown… It looks like a good day ahead; I even anticipate the rain expected this afternoon. Aesop wants a peanut butter cookie, which I’ll give him presently. 

Prismatic

It’s pitch dark outside yet, no daylight for another 45 minutes. Even then it’ll remain pretty dark from the overcast. My Snapple can wait a half hour. Bonnie Rose just fired up her black pickup truck across the street. If she can go out in the dark then so can I… By this time, the dawning light is visible through my front window, the black trees turning green and red.

Eight twenty. When I came out of the market, a gigantic rainbow arced right above it, and here and there it was raining lightly. A woman told her children, “It’s a rainbow. It’s beautiful!” The store was very busy, mostly with teens on their way to school, stopping to buy munchies. Whereas time dragged on before the sunrise, now it’s getting away from me as the world wakes up… Pastor is offering rides to church for Katie’s memorial service on Friday night. I was planning on going anyway, but getting a ride is a good idea, especially in the rain. It’s always interesting how a poet’s mood creates the meaning of a real scene— or maybe it’s just an absolute that a rainbow is a beautiful thing, aside from all human perception. I know people who believe so. 

The Illusion of Safety

Noon hour.

I catch myself being a jerk today and then I have to stop and reevaluate my attitude and behavior. The cabbie for the return ride was interesting. He lived through the great snow of 1969 in Eugene. I mentioned drought after observing that Kelly Pond had shrunk down to hardly any water at all. He said that in ‘69 it was dry for 120 days in a row. I was two years old that year and don’t remember much of it.

My meeting at the agency went pretty well, except as I said, I was kind of a jerk. I look back on my working days now and wonder how I endured the boredom of it. I was not challenged by the type of work I did. There was a coworker who understood that about me. She was very intelligent and incisive, and advised me to get a job in the larger community. But I stayed where I was because I thought it was safer. After a few years it turned into a big mess. The alcohol addiction usurped my life and in general I felt trapped. Today I still feel a little bit that way. Therefore, no situation is really safe. I’d like to do more fun things in the community and try to connect with smart people. Bookstores are a good place for me to start looking for intelligent life, and maybe a trip up on campus. The burden of being smart is that it takes more to keep yourself stimulated. 

Tuesday Morning

Eight o’clock.

I got an early start today due to my appointment at the agency. Michelle is familiar with the place, so we talked about it a little. At seven o’clock it was still pretty dark outside, and I noticed some fallen leaves on the street. Another pedestrian passed me on the sidewalk and said good morning. She carried a walking stick and wore a white jacket. The sun is only now just clearing the trees across the way. I came home loaded down with groceries and dog food, a burden in each hand. It amazes me how people tend to personify natural things, as if they could be human, or interested in human affairs. But there are no stepping stones out in the wilderness, no conveniences at all. I guess that’s why I’m more of a city person than a country person. The sun glares right in my face. My taxi is coming for me after nine o’clock. I hope I don’t get devoured in my interview… Now I wonder how I got painted into this corner where I feel like a defenseless rat. And a cornered rat will fight to save himself. No bones about it, I don’t like the agency’s heavy emphasis on religion. Life is not that simple. How can people just ignore the impact of Charles Darwin? 

Disconnect

Eight fifty five.

I went back to bed before dawn and had ominous thoughts and one nightmare. I’m not in a rush to go get a Snapple tea. It can wait. I have to get ahold of the RideSource person and do my assessment as soon as possible.

Ten o’clock. Finally I got out to the store and also spoke with a few people in the neighborhood: Karen, Jessica, Roger, and Colin. The hot topic is still mostly Covid. Colin just got a new job working from home and plans to have another kid. He said he doesn’t trust anybody to be an expert on the pandemic. He and Roger were talking football when I came and sort of killed their conversation. Lolo the dog walked up to me and I petted her. I thought about giving her a snack from my shopping bag, but figured that Aesop wouldn’t want to share. Probably I had other reasons, too. I don’t have a lot in common with the neighbors on my street. Or maybe I am a little bit of a hermit? The street is still wet from the overnight rain. A Canada goose wings overhead, a lone honker, destination unknown.

Quarter of eleven. I left a voicemail for my sister. In five minutes I’ll break open the snacks for Aesop and start thinking about having lunch. Even hermits have to eat, I reckon. And the trash pickup has just arrived. 

Accents

Eight forty.

It might be nice to fly over the rainbow or fall down the rabbit hole, find myself in an alternate reality of timelessness. I’m avoiding church this morning and just lazing on a Sunday. Trying to drop all my troubles to achieve peace. I’d like to discover a romantic space like a Pleasure Dome, but this also calls to mind hookahs and opium dens. This wouldn’t be very responsible, yet just for a day it is good to dream… Now it’s time to feed my dog… The day clouds up, perhaps to fulfill the forecast of rain. I saw nothing today to really complain about, except the general mood is very blah.

Years ago at the store I occasionally saw a woman from Wales whose accent was a delight, though as an individual she wasn’t sympathetic to people with disabilities. She told me about her experience at WinCo, when a person in a wheelchair blocked her view of the soups. She got quite upset and said something to the disabled person. Basically, get out of my way. It was a lesson to me that out group homogeneity is a fallacy. No two British people are exactly alike, and it’s a fool who thinks so. I haven’t seen this Welshwoman in a long time, but it was a treat to hear her talk. The foreigners around here have all disappeared over the last four or five years, and I’m sad to see them go. Maybe they’ll begin to trickle back in before long.

It’s early and I have all day to take out the trash and recycling. The weather is not pretty, just kind of lemon. But there is a ray of sunshine on the ground. 

Naked Masks

I’ve just had a nap for a few hours and now it’s black as ink outside. This afternoon was interesting with my trip to the bookstore. Nice to see Nancy. She was looking for the new biography of Ron Howard. We talked a little about Pastor Dan’s sermons, which have taken a dark turn since the pandemic started. Of course she asked me if I was coming back and I said I’d consider it… I bought two blank books with lined pages and a brown cover showing a Tree of Life image. And I looked at the bargain classics: they had a nice one containing the first five Oz novels by L. Frank Baum. Maybe I’ll grab it next time. It was only eight dollars. While I was there, nobody looked at me funny or anything; I seemed to blend in pretty well. Everyone was very nice.

One of the first things you see when you walk in the door is the section of bibles, shelf upon shelf, off to the right side. I guess this is the American scene nowadays, or maybe it’s always been that way. I wonder how I could have missed it before? Something about my upbringing wasn’t right, because my perspective is like an outsider’s. My parents both hid away from the Christian USA, drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes with the front drapes always closed to keep the world out. So maybe the program I ran into in treatment for addiction was not far from the truth. It taught that dislocation from your culture is a big part of substance abuse. Perhaps the same thing is involved with schizophrenia? Or maybe I’ve been a client at Laurel Hill for too long. This can also skew your perception of otherwise indifferent things. And maybe everyone gets brainwashed all the time.

I just do the best I can. The more I think about it, the more I feel I’ve been jerked around by social norms that don’t care anyway. And everything cultural is entirely relative and made up. The only constant truth is our biology, which is valid across all cultures.