Sunday, May 27, 2012

The texture of invisibility

The other day, I had lunch with a bunch of engineers whom I don't know very well, and we got onto the topic of nuisance animals, like woodpeckers that drill into the roof, rats that hang around the cat food, and so on.  It was all very polite and ever-so-mildly tedious, when I mentioned that I follow the blog of someone who just rescued 11 baby possums.  (Go look at the pictures!)

There was a little silence.  "Really?  How did you end up doing that?"

I wasn't sure what the actual question was, but I replied anyway.  "Oh, I was following the blog for a long time before this rescue operation." I thought that sounded good, right?  Like, I'm not one to be home on the weekends googling, "possum rescue".  No sirree.

"Really?  You were already following the blog, and then the person rescued the possums?"

"Yeah.  But this week there were pictures of these baby possums.  Snuggled under a blanket."

There was silence while everyone looked at me, waiting for more explanation, but I kept my mouth shut.

"Why were you reading the blog in the first place?"

It seemed too complicated to go into it all, so I replied, "Oh, I guess I just like to see what's going on out there.  I read a lot of blogs.  This one's written by a woman outside of Chicago."

"So, she isn't someone you know?"

"Well, no..."  I didn't want to explain that she's become sort of an imaginary friend, the kind who I'll likely never meet, and I only know the barest sketch about, but I think we would be friends if things were different, and she thinks that too.

There was that pause again, and eventually someone said, "Well, I guess now you do know what's going on out there.  Women in Chicago are rescuing possums." There was hearty laughter among the engineers, and the meal concluded on that note.

I was going to come home and write about that when it happened, but I was afraid it would be weird -- it could seem like I was making fun of the sweet possum rescue and the little blanket.  Words can so easily be misconstrued, and sometimes, finding a joy in someone's quirky parts might be misundersood as making fun of them, which isn't the point at all.

But yesterday, I joined Cake Boss and her kids on a fun bike ride and when we returned to our parked cars, the lot was full of cottonwood fluff.  It looked like a small blizzard -- a few inches had accumulated in some areas, and we stopped to play with it for a while.  It was softer and lighter than I could perceive with my hands, which is eerie in a good way.  We played a game where one person would close their eyes, and another person would drop a fistful of cottonwood fluff into one hand.  The person with closed eyes would have to guess which hand held the cottonwood fluff.  It was surprisingly difficult.  It seemed like this substance represented what invisibility would be like, if invisibility were a texture.

This morning, Cake Boss texted this picture to me, which is a bird that she rescued from her wood stove where it had been knocking itself out, literally, trying to escape.  Her kids have gently swaddled it in fluff, like an army nurse might do.  Providing comfort with whatever's available.

At any rate, it all made me realize how fortunate I am to have my life intersect with these rescuers, who work to minimize suffering in large and small ways, mostly small, because that's how it is with suffering.  You can knock around the inside of a woodstove for a long, long time, and all that anyone can really do is cover you up with the gentlest substance available, be present while you rest, and wave when you fly off.  That's as good as it gets.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Over the weekend, I went to an awkward gathering to take pictures of R. and his date for the Senior Prom.  One outstanding thing about R. is that at 4:00, he was standing in my kitchen in shorts and a t-shirt, making a quesadilla.  By 4:45, he had driven to his Dad’s (10 minute drive), changed into a tux, driven to the florist (10 minute drive), picked up a corsage, and driven to town to meet me (5 minute drive), where we caravanned to this photo op.   My point is not that global warming is our fault, (which it is), but rather, that he spent less than 20 minutes preparing himself for the prom.  I’m a fan of that.

Anyway, I followed him and his buddy to a beautiful home overlooking our incredible valley, and we were greeted at the door by parents.  It strikes me as a little funny that I'm arriving at the door with two young men in suits.  I’m on the “meet the parents” part of the date, but I am the parent, and the other half of the dates are nowhere in sight, so it’s a little confusing..  We introduce ourselves, and the adults seem mildly indifferent.  None of the “come on in, may I take your coat, what would you like to drink?” that I try to practice at my house. 

“I guess the boys don’t pick the girls up for a date so much anymore,” I say, to fill the air.

“Oh, the girls are already here,” the mother answers, but there’s no evidence of that.

We stand on the doormat for a bit longer, not saying anything, and eventually, the girls emerge from a bedroom.  The boys greet them, and the four young people move into the kitchen where corsages and boutonnières are traded.  I’m still awkwardly standing at the entryway, holding my sweater and camera, but after a bit, decide to follow, uninvited, into the kitchen to take pictures.

Let me back up and say that as a single mother who’s worked forever, I haven’t been very involved in the school since my kids were in about 5th grade.  By now, I’m pretty far out of the loop.  In fact, I’m not even sure where the loop is, or who’s in it.  I wouldn’t recognize the loop if I were snared by it.  There’s an enormous gap between the at-home mothers who sell candy at the football games, plan casino nights and car washes, and know the ins and outs of All Things School, and the ones like me who come home bedraggled after stressful days getting yelled at by random people, sitting in traffic, wondering who I could hire to fix the leak in the roof, what to fix for dinner, and how many yoga classes it will take for me to remain relatively sane.  The chasm between these groups is filled with guilt.

I have a vague sense of the big things, like, “hey, is there going to be a graduation ceremony?  Do I need to know anything about that?” but my understanding doesn’t go too far beyond that.  I believe that after a certain point, kids should own their school life, and invite their parents in where needed, but I believe that a little desperately, the way you do when if you’re wrong, the consequences are pretty bad, and it’s too late to do it another way.

That’s probably why I get a little anxious when I have to intersect with the actual loop.  Like perhaps I’ll encounter something that will cause my belief armor to crack, and I’ll have to live with the depressing knowledge that I’ve blown it on the most important thing ever.  There will be something I'm supposed to know that I just don't, and CPS will be contacted.

Once, many years ago, I tried speed dating, and one guy spent our whole six minutes together saying, incredulously, “Really?  You haven’t seen Moulin Rouge?  Are you serious?  You haven’t seen it?”  Like it was a condition.  I’m afraid of a similar moment when I tangle with The Loop.  On the one hand, sheesh, it’s just one freakin’ movie!  It doesn’t make me culturally obsolete!  But on the other hand, um, I am a little obsolete, so his tirade stung.  I know, right?  Like some loser spends 6 minutes berating me because I haven’t seen a movie, and I’m the one who feels bad? 

Anyway, I tried to take pictures while holding my sweater and camera case for a minute, and then just set them down on the stairs, not knowing for sure if that was the right thing to do.  Once I was hands-free photographing in the kitchen, I noticed three big platters of beautiful appetizers and some wine glasses, but no one mentioned them, so I looked away.  If you’ve ever paged through a Smith and Hawken catalog, you know exactly how this situation looked.

The mom ushered us outside to a gorgeous patio that sported a stunning view of the valley, and a fountain surrounded by lush perennials.  I snapped a million pictures of R. and his beautiful date, and then, to be polite, snapped a million more of the other couple, who, to be candid, I don’t have a need for pictures of, but it seemed like the thing to do.  After about 20 minutes, another couple and a few more parents arrived, so we took a great many more pictures.  I believe it would be calculated by 6 factorial, getting every possible combination of posed shots.

I try to strike up a conversation with our hostess, and ask about things, like, what elevation are we at, how deep is your well, etc. I see R. giving me the look, and I know exactly what he would be saying if he weren’t on his best behavior.  He’d say, “Sheesh, Mom, that’s not a normal way to strike up a conversation.  No one but you cares how deep her well is, and especially because you aren’t even asking it ironically,” so I was laughing at his comment.  (That’s when you know you’ve gone a tiny bit around the bend, when you’re laughing at something someone said, but they didn’t even say it.)  But really, if you were standing there, you'd be wondering too:  is the bottom elevation of the well below that of the river, and if so, what are the consequences for the river, and for the well...  I know you're on my side here.

I took 92 pictures of R. and his friends and their parents and their shoes and the valley and the table with a fancy clutch on it, and then the other parents said they were leaving.  Because of my issue with transitions, I used my most reliable exit strategy and just drafted like a lazy bicyclist, saying I had to leave too.  Which I totally wanted to; I just didn’t know how long I was supposed to stay.  I sat car in my car in their driveway, blocked in, for several minutes before I realized that I was blocked by the last couple, and not the other exiting parents, who by now had left several minutes earlier.  I had started listening to a podcast, and sort of forgot what I was waiting for.  

When I realized that I was going to have to re-appear at the party, 10 minutes after I had left, I had a flashback to a time when I applied for a job as a waitress on a 3rd floor restaurant.  After the interview, I exited via the stairwell, only to realize I was locked in, and after spending half an hour going up and down the stairs a few times, trying doors, had to pound on the door of the restaurant, and have it be opened by the man who had just interviewed me, but this time, I was sweatier.  I didn’t get the job.

So I walked back to the patio, asked the couple if they could move their car, and then remembered that I had left my camera case and sweater inside.  I walked awkwardly back into the house, and told the hostess why I was there.  

“Would you like some snacks?  I’ve made some snacks.”  As she gestured toward the beautiful trays, her manner was so sweet and disappointed that she reminded me of the mother in The Hours.  No one had touched the trays of tapas. 

As usual, I wasn’t sure what the correct answer was, so I said I needed to go.  I’m pretty sure that if you left 10 minutes ago, and only returned because you forgot something, you probably shouldn’t stay to eat.   

Saturday, May 12, 2012

This future, revealed.

Aries (3/21 – 4/19):  I have a thing for hardware stores, I guess because everyone there seems so purposeful.  They're all about to make something, or at least fix something.  Hardware stores and their inhabitants are fighting entropy with everything they've got, but they make it look effortless.  It's almost like they don't understand that entropy always wins.  I find it so hopeful and calming to be around all that industriousness, because I've pretty much surrendered to the inevitable deterioration of stuff, so sometimes when it gets stressful, I just go walk around and watch.

Yesterday, while I was wandering around Home Depot, an employee came up to ask if I needed help, and I thought it was Tig Notaro.  Luckily, I remembered about my facial recognition disorder before I said anything awkward.  She did have brown hair, two arms, etc., not unlike Tig, but odds are pretty low that it actually was Ms. Notaro, since she was in New York only yesterday.  Using incredible powers of deduction, I realized that it would be unusual for her to be an employee at Home Depot, so I refrained from giving her a super-friendly fan greeting.  But now I'm regretting that a little. I mean, really, if you were some brown-haired, two armed clerk at a big box store, wouldn't you be thrilled to be mistaken for Tig?  So Aries, just go for it this week.  Give everyone the adoring fan greeting.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  Every so often I check to see what search items bring random people to this blog.  The biggest draws for all time are "fur slugs" and "ham in a can", which I try pretty hard not to think about.  But today, I got a hit from Armenia, based on the search, "Horoscopes in which Spanx are never mentioned."  I'm so glad I was able to help.  I had no idea it was a real problem -- like, some guy in Armenia thinking, 'sheesh, I'm wondering what my horoscope is, but I hope they don't bring up Spanx again...'  Anyway, Taurus, your week is going to be mysterious and awesome, and Spanx will rarely be mentioned.

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21):  Today, the boss came in and Ms. Pasta said, "hey, do you have a poem?"  He left the room for what seemed like a really long time, and we couldn't tell if he was just mortified and afraid of what might happen next, or if he went to get a poem.  He came back a long time later and said he was sorry, but he didn't have a poem.  (Not to stray from the topic, but how could he not know?)  He turned to me and asked, "So, did you give Ms. Pasta the same poem you gave me?"  I know!  He's still puzzling that out.  Sheesh.  Let it go already.  Of course I didn't give her the same poem.  That would be creepy, right?  Gemini, you're never creepy, so luckily, you can give out any poems you want.  Any time, any where, and no one will even bat an eye.  In fact, they'll feel lucky.  True dat.

Cancer 6/22 – 7/21:  I keep getting laid off (three letters so far), and I'm beginning to wonder if they think I'll be like that stalker ex-girlfriend or something, not getting it.  (Better have The Talk again, there she is, lurking in the bushes...)  Just for the record, I'm not Bartleby or that stalker ex.  I get it, Job, we broke up.  At any rate, one of the worst things about the rat race is when they move the finish line.  Not fair.  You get all geared up to be released from the invisible fencing and they change your release date.  How this relates to you, Cancer, is that sometimes the thing that you fear turns into what you long for.  I can't figure out whether that's depressing or good, but let's go with good, at least for this week.

Leo (7/23 – 8/22):  Speaking of work, I was talking to a someone the other day who said that years ago, when he started a job, each day he'd come home and mark his calendar with either a happy face or a sad face, and he decided that if there were more happys than sads at the end of the month, he'd keep at it.  He did keep at it, but I got the sense that maybe there was some mishap with the counting, or maybe its just that if he were to do the same thing today, it would come out differently.  But the point is, I'm pretty sure a whole day can't usually be summed up by one type of face.  Just for this week, Leo, put some sort of symbol on your calendar each day.  See where you end up.  Don't be afraid of using the side thumb when needed.   :-)

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):  You may not know this, but there's a little internet phenom going on right now, where women are creating videos on the theme, "Tights are not Pants."  To keep you from wasting time, I'll tell you that Youtube has nearly 1,000 videos, and let's just say that the title says it all.  There aren't many places you can take that.  It's like making a video of driving towards a destination in Iowa that you can see plainly from the first shot.  This is only marginally related to your horoscope, but I wanted to catch you up.  Your week, luckily, is going to be full of all kinds of stuff that you so did not see coming.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  I'm sitting in a coffee shop, over-hearing two young people planning a trip of some sort, and I heard this: "We're going to have some trouble getting the dogs up in time.  Lately, they've been sleeping til 10."  This is why I can't write.  I stare off into space trying not to show how hard I'm listening, and trying to refrain from using the internet to confirm my suspicion that there's something really wrong with a dog that doesn't get up early every day, and especially when packing is happening.  I'm sitting here thinking, "is it weird if I just go over to that table and start asking them questions about their dogs?"   Libra, don't be like those slacker dogs.  Get up early and plant yourself in the car when you suspect a trip is afoot.

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  Anyway, to make a long story short without even telling the story, I had to go back to the coffee shop today to pay, and different people were working when I returned.  I said I needed to pay for the two drinks we had earlier (oh, see, now I'm telling the story,  Sheesh.)  At any rate, the beloved cranky old man asked who I was with, I said M., and he said, "oh, right, a Scorpio.  Gotta charge you for two shots, because I'm sure she had them, or should have."  That's the kind of week you'll have.

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):  The other day, I was helping someone in, yes, the Permit Center (fortunately, not too many more posts will have that sentence in them...), and I asked if she had the bright pink form, and she didn't seem to, so I said, "oh, maybe you printed it out from the internet, so it's white?"
"Why would it be white and not pink?"
"Well, if you printed it from home on white paper, it would be white."
"So, why wouldn't it print the right color at home?"

Anyway, Sag, have patience.  You'll need it this week.

M & I in our 3-D glasses
Capricorn (12/22 – 1/19):  My little M. told me that the other day, she saw a small, tissue paper hot air balloon floating towards the parking lot she was standing in.  When it arrived on the ground, she and two other random spectators approached it, and found that it had a love declaration in it from someone named Almond.  The three, who were now partners in awestruck-ness, went into the mini-market, purchased three scratch tickets, and taped them, along with a note, onto the balloon’s basket.  They pooled all the paper they could summon from their pockets for rocket fuel, lit it, and sent it off again.  I feel pretty proud of her – she obviously knows how to behave in a small hot air balloon situation.  I don’t know if all the young people would know to add the scratch tickets and to form a little adventure with the random people in the parking lot, but that was undoubtedly the right thing to do.  I was proud the way someone might be if your offspring had performed CPR on a heart attack victim.  Capricorn, do the right thing this week.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):  Believe it or not, last night was the first time I've ever been invited to a  Washington State Future Farmer's of America awards ceremony party.  Always the same question, what to wear, what to wear.  Spoiler Alert:   Lynden Christian High School seemed to be winning lots of stuff.  Your week will be like that.  Lots of winning, lots of recognition.  Be gracious.

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  So we were walking around last night, and R. said, “Hey, my friend just got home from college, and she wondered if we could get together tomorrow afternoon, but we only have about half an hour.  If I text this, does it sound creepy?  “If we just have time to get together for a short time, I’d rather not. It’s like having one bite of cake and not the whole piece.”

Well, yeah, I guess it seems mildly sexual, if that’s what you mean.  Maybe substitute “potato chips.”

“But I don’t even like potato chips that much.”

“Yeah, but it’s kind of a cliché that people can’t really just have one.” 

“Mom, I’m not really a big potato chip eater.” 

"Does she know that?"

"I’m not gonna lie to her.   I had probably better skip texting food metaphors."

That is some good decision-making right there, Pisces.  Do that this week, if you can.   Avoid texting food metaphors. 

Explaining the afterlife to my dog...

 The other day, my dog asked me what happens when we die.  Gulp. I look at Jasmine and think dammit.  I didn't think dogs knew about mo...