Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I saw the comet Lutin through one of the telescopes at work tonight. It's a small, greenish blur of icy dust making its last orbit of our sun before escaping forever into the blackness beyond. In the eyepiece of the telescope, it looks small and distant, faint and lonely. There's something special about seeing it, knowing that soon nobody will ever see it again. Ever.

I can apply that feeling to many other aspects of my life too. I've always been drawn towards the uncommon, be it music, rarely spotted local wildlife, or... just about anything really.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Nathan and one of his friends today. We were talking about how words and images lose meaning through endless repetition. If you mindlessly repeat something enough times, it loses its power... (I just remembered - we were talking about Island of the Blue Dolphin, which the kids are reading in the fourth grade, and how each character has a secret name, and how names have power...). This caused me to think about the Pledge of Allegiance, endlessly repeated by school kids across the country. Some days, I actually have to recite this pledge twice (we do it at camp, and then again at the school where I student teach). This has always seemed so pointless to me. I can remember mouthing the words as a kid, and refusing to stand as a teenager and young adult. Now, I have to lead it as part of my job as night supervisor, and as a teacher. This is at odds with my desire to teach children how to think for themselves. The Pledge, endlessly repeated, has no power. It is spoken without thought. In addition to this, the wording presupposes a belief in a single deity above us. Not that anybody ever really thinks about it though...

I propose we rename the Pledge of Allegiance something more accurate - perhaps the Moment of Mindless Mouthing.

Of course, I'd be so fired if I actually did this in class. That's how they get us - economically. It's a good thing there are other ways to help kids think for themselves.

May our experiences always be fresh, and free from the dullness of repetition. May our relationships always be rich, and likewise be free from the atrophy caused by routine and ruts. That is my wish for today.

Go out and see Lutin before it vanishes. It's near Saturn right now. Soon it will be beyond. It will not repeat. I salute it for venturing off the beaten path.

Currently listening to: Fields of Shit "House of Cards"
Willow turns 6 today. I took the day off from student teaching to get her presents wrapped and to get myself napped. People have started to RSVP for her party, to be held a couple of weekends from now, and Willow is excited. Last night, she had a birthday dinner at her house. Tonight, she'll have one with me. She has requested mac'n'cheese and a peanut butter sandwich, voicing some concern as to whether that counted as a dinner or not.

Mac'n'cheese and peanut butter sandwiches it shall be! Happy birthday, Willow!

My birthday wish for Willow is that I hope she always holds on to the imagination she has now, and doesn't let it atrophy like so many other people seem to do as they age.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I left for work at the usual time last night, but was turned back at the bottom of the road leading up to camp. It seems that some trees and mud had conspired to cover the road, leading to a group of brightly-garbed humans having to spend the better part of the day sawing trunks and shoveling mud.

I went back home and watched the movie version of Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and found it a rather harrowing experience. Not quite as harrowing as the book, but well worth watching. The scene where Sitting Bull tells off Senator Dawes was especially well done, I thought. It got me thinking about my own visit to Wounded Knee, but that is a story for another time because I'm tired right now.

I'm tired because when I finally got to work there was a feverish girl waiting for her dad to show up, and because the power had been out at camp for most of the day. There's a backup generator, but it doesn't supply power to the outlying buildings, including the Nature Lab where the reptiles are kept. I ended up having to move the python, using my body heat to warm him back up before putting him to bed in a dog carrier in a heated room.

It's pretty hard to stuff an 8.5 foot python under your jacket. After doing this, I must have resembled Quasimodo, shambling around all lumpy and misshapen. It didn't help that the python looped a coil around one of my legs, affecting my gait. Good thing no homesick kids showed up during this time.

The upshot of all of this is that I got to sleep late.

In the morning, driving back down the hill, I snapped a few photos of the cleared road.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We're being homebodies again today. There's a whole world out there, but today our world is limited by walls, with windows looking out on grayness and rain. I've always liked looking out at rain. There's something nice about having the option to be inside when it rains. Not that I'm unaware of the many who don't have that option, whether it's because of their job, or because they don't have a job... Although, even then, there are options.

My job, for several years there, entailed lots of hiking in the rain. I loved it, but I can remember one March a couple of years ago when it literally rained every day for the whole month. We were all quite sick of the rain at the end of that, and it seemed if our white, prune-like feet would never recover. Now, since I'm working nights, my biggest concern is that the rain and wind will knock the power out. We have a backup generator, of course, but I don't think it supplies the nature lab with needed electricity. So, if there's ever a blackout in the middle of a winter night, I'll be cuddling up with the python to keep him from getting too cold.

While the rain continues to fall, Willow is inside, creating elaborate scenarios with her stuffed animals, blankets, chairs, and whatever else she can move. We've also been working on invitations for her 6th birthday party. Things are happening today. They're just happening inside, and at a leisurely pace.

Currently listening to: Dead Kennedys "Frankenchrist" Willow thinks I should turn it off so she can watch dvds. She's such a little multi-tasker. I am of the opinion that sometimes you just have to listen to Dead Kennedys. This is one of those times.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Today would have benefited from some advance planning. Willow is resistant to all of the old standbys, mostly because the one thing we did do today was go to the library. The stack of books we checked out last week weren't due back yet, so rather than check out more books, we picked up some dvds. That's where the problem lies - now all she wants to do is watch them. You'd think I'd learn...

I'm sitting here with my headphones on, with I-tunes shuffling its little digital heart out. This is partially to drown out the dvds Willow is watching, and partially just because music makes everything better.

It's tough when she doesn't want to do any of the things I suggest. It's almost as if she were a teenager already. The movies are going off after the one she is currently watching though. We are going to go out, whether she wants to or not.

Tomorrow, it is supposed to rain. In fact, the weather forecast calls for rain for the rest of the week. As usual, I'm looking forward to it.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.

Currently listening to: Sol Invictus "Sawney Bean"

Friday, February 20, 2009

There's a crow singing up in the tree. It's funny to me, that at least on one occasion, I've heard crowsong followed by the angry yelling of some nearby human. It's as if we thought we owned the world, or something. Where do we get off telling other animals when they can and can't sing? Jeez.

Also up in the tree (I'm talking about one of the huge trees in my ex-backyard) is a butterfly net, apparently dragged there by a squirrel. You gotta hand it to the little varmint. The net is about 40 feet off the ground. I saw the squirrel struggling with it - no doubt trying to drag it into position elsewhere in the tree. Maybe a butterfly net makes good mosquito netting for a squirrel. I didn't ask.

What neither the crow nor the squirrel know is that the tree is slated for removal. Apparently, the last time the tree trimmers came, they killed it with their reckless exuberance. Long time readers of this blog might remember me writing about that particular day - the day everything in the backyard was broken by falling limbs. I'm sure they ended losing money in the long run, because they had to pay us for everything they broke. At the time, we didn't know they'd killed the tree.

Or maybe the yard killed it. I used to jokingly call it the yard of death, because this isn't the first tree to mysteriously die in it. By far the biggest, yes, but not the first.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I've enjoyed the nearly constant pattering of rain on the roof for several days running now. I've been under the weather (so to speak) and hence under the roof since Saturday, feeling sniffly and achey. In fact, I didn't set foot outside on Sunday at all.

During that time, I finished reading one novel, read the entirety of a second, and started a third. I watched a couple of movies too. By Monday, I felt better, and I've managed to crank out quite a bit of schoolwork since then. I seem to get things done in bursts of energy, interspersed with periods of inertia. There are times when I find it hard to get down to business. I wouldn't exactly chalk it up to laziness - it's more to do with the state of my mind lately. I've got a lot on my mind. I've been in a super-reflective state of being, and I find myself picking at the same emotional scabs from different angles, testing them with the fingernail of my intellect to see if there has been any healing underneath, and finding some of the wounds still raw, while others have a fresh layer of pink skin sealing in the hurt, defending against infection.

Following that train of thought, the walls of my personal fortress are still in place too, and the gate is barred. This too is in reaction to being hurt, and who knows how long the walls will stand this time?

As for the real walls, the ones in my apartment. I've spent and inordinate amount of time between them over the last few days (I'm off work this week, and there's no school either), and it makes me feel like a cave dweller. There's a certain comfort in that. Even without the computer, I have enough in the way of entertainment (both productive and otherwise) to last for months. I can get most of my schoolwork done this way too. Still, I get crazy if I stay inside too long. I'm an outside kind of guy.

On the bright side, other than buying groceries, I haven't spent any money since the middle of last week (if one doesn't consider electricity and gas usage). In fact, considering that I finally sold the aquarium, there's been a net gain.

Currently listening to: Silver Summit "Apple Tree"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The fact that I'm spending more time reflecting on love today, on Valentine's Day 2009, than I have over the last few years, should tell me something. This is my first Valentine's Day as a single person in... well, nearly a decade. If I wanted to count my previous, off again on again relationship, I could stretch that amount to closer to two decades.

The lesson is to not take love for granted. I'm just getting to the point where I can start to properly mourn the death of my relationship with Jen. I think it's sad that our love wasn't unconditional. I accepted her flaws, but in the end she couldn't accept mine. Maybe her lack of understanding is partially my fault. I can't always find the words to communicate the important things. Sometimes, the more important something (or somebody) is to me, the more tongue-tied I become. It's kind of ironic then, that I'm sitting here and typing away, communicating to anybody who happens across this page, when there was a pretty serious communication breakdown within the framework of my marriage.

I believe in love. I believe in sticking with people, and with ideas. I consider myself a romantic at heart, and a dreamer (sometimes to the exclusion of practicality). I'm sad today, and lonely. At the same time, I know this will change. I plan on being more careful, and more communicative next time.

Don't we all?

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. Love like there's no tomorrow! Sometimes there isn't.

Currently listening to: Bittova & Fajt "s/t"

Friday, February 13, 2009

It hurts to type right now. Whenever the weather turns cold, my fingers react by becoming too dry, cracking, and bleeding. Irritatingly, the most painful sores are always on the fingertips. I use hand lotion, but apparently not consistently enough to stop the problem.

I can hear the rain on the roof right now. It has been raining off and on since this afternoon. I finally managed to sell the huge (300 gallon?) aquarium that has been taking up space in Jen's garage. Around 5 or 6 years ago, I got it for free from the Children's Museum after the water company stopped subsidizing their salt water fish display. I had planned to eventually use it for reptiles, but with the reptiles living up at camp, and me living in a studio apartment... well, you get the idea.

It took us around 2 hours to get the aquarium out of the garage. The guy who bought it pulled all the decorative rock out, and shoveled all the detritus out of the bottom of it. We got down underneath it and sawed off all the plastic pipes and tubes, so we could more easily slide it off the metal stand. I'm amazed it fit into the small SUV he'd driven down in. Too bad he left the stand behind. That means I still have to figure out how to get rid of that. It won't fit in my van, so I'll probably try to break it into smaller bits. All of the decorative rock will probably end up at camp. Or on my small patio. I'll have to figure out what to do with it.

Still, I have a feeling of accomplishment. It's funny how things (like aquariums in garages) that you seldom think about manage to nag at you nonetheless. Selling the aquarium silenced a nagging voice.

Okay... back to listening to the rain now.
I often awaken feeling overwhelmed. I'm not one to hit the ground running in the mornings. Sometimes it takes me a couple of hours to find my groove. Today, I came home from work and took a two hour nap, waking up slowly and with a feeling of directionlessness. I feel better now that I've cleaned the apartment and listened to some music. I also chatted with an online friend (that would be a friend who was online, not somebody who I met online), talked with a prospective buyer for the aquarium I'm trying to sell, and noticed that my recent review of the Amebix show in S.F. has been linked on the official Amebix myspace page (okay, looking back, it's actually linked from a myspace bulletin they sent out, not on the page itself, but still...). That's nice!

Time to get moving here. The rest of the day awaits.

Currently listening to: Hazy Loper "High in the Murk", and thinking it's just about perfect in that lonesome, melancholy sort of way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another brief spattering of rain has ensured that the ground won't dry out quite yet. The clouds have moved on, leaving the cold moon staring down. The rooftops glow with borrowed light.

I'm inside the camp office with the heater on. The vents rattle under the onslaught of the warm air, and the sound sometimes keeps me awake at night. The constant ticking of the clocks no longer does though.

Currently listening to: Sol Invictus "A German Requiem"
The cold rain continues, off and on. I'm over at my ex-residence (or should I say, my ex's residence) with the usual five kids. Some of them are actually doing homework without me having to stand over them. Others need a bit more encouragement.

I've once again placed an ad on Craigslist for the monolithic plexiglass aquarium squatting in the garage here. I've lowered the price, and three people have already responded. We'll see if any of them actually buy the damn thing.

Okay, kid chaos is happening. Time to go.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A storm hit a little while ago. I stood outside and watched the front move in. Clouds scudded across the face of the moon and the wind, like a massive, cold hand, tousled the leafy hair of the hills. The rain, when it finally began to fall in earnest, was cold.

I love this weather. Another good thing is that it took me away from the computer. I've been spending too much time on the computer lately, and it's starting to bother me, so it was good to just stand out in the cold, watching the moon disappear and feeling the wind whip my hair.

Of course, here I am back at the computer. I feel like writing is a constructive thing to be doing though, so it's okay. Random, obsessive surfing, on the other hand, isn't very constructive. Gotta watch that.

Gotta watch a lot of things. I'm trying to become more mindful of the behaviors that hold be back. That's the first step towards changing them. I'm such a backslider sometimes though.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Now the trees are whispering
As I lie here in the grass
Waiting for this long cold night to pass
A thousand eyes are gazing down
Like bullet holes shot into the roof
As I lie here scratching
For a grain of truth

Tod A./Firewater, from "Balaliaka"

I listen to this song at least once a week. With some songs, you've just gotta do that. It's strange that so much of what I like has an Eastern European feel to it. Firewater are mostly from New York, but you'd never guess that if you just had their music to go by.

I'm continuing to think about what really resonates with me. I'm listening to my gut. I'm also listening to beautiful music.

And drinking tea.

And preparing to do some reading.
I'm currently re-watching "Rivers and Tides", the documentary on artist Andy Goldsworthy. I'm planning to use a segment of it in class tomorrow because his profound connection with the land echoes the connection ancient cultures had with the land (the class is studying the Kush and Nok cultures at the moment). It has been a while since I last watched this film, so I was amazed to hear him echo exactly the same sentiments that Rob Miller from Amebix spoke of during the interview of a couple of weeks ago (the one I just mentioned in a post yesterday, as a matter of fact). The sentiment they share is a dislike for traveling because it makes them feel dislocated and uprooted. In our current society, this is something that many of us never think of, especially since many of our families have only been in their current locations for a few generations. Add to this the fact that everything from our architecture to our consumer practices emphasizes disconnection and compartmentalization.

I just went out to get the mail and found myself jarred by the way the landscaping was bisected by walkways, and by the fact that everything exists in unnnatural squares and rectangles. There is no flow. Everything is so artificial... so blocky. Of course, I'm not even going to get into the fact that the landscaping is all non-native plants...

Maybe if we all operated under the influence of art, things would improve.
I awakened at 5:45 this morning to the sound of my name, spoken in a matter-of-fact tone by a female voice, sounding like it was coming over an intercom.

Of course, there was no one there. It sounded so real, this audio hallucination. One is almost tempted to think that there was something more to it.

Who knows?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Willow is asleep. She stayed up later than she should have, but then again we didn't do anything to burn off excess energy today. I had meant to catch the airing of the Amebix interview we took part in. Greg was broadcasting it on KALX at 9 PM, but I didn't tune in (via the internet, since the range of their transmitters doesn't extend this far south) until nearly 10, at which time it was too late. Willow stayed awake until she got to hear Greg talk between songs. If you're reading this, and ever want to listen in, he DJs under the name Carnacki. Not sure what his regular slot is right now, but it often seems like he's there more often than not.

It has been raining off and on today, and I love it. I still get irritated at people who refer to rain as "bad" weather. Especially when the people in question are forecasters, who should know better.

While hanging out inside today, we added another batch of glow-in-the-dark stars to the walls and ceiling. It's beginning to look like the center of the galaxy in here, or like the night sky during a power outage. We're about at the point where I think we have enough stars. Maybe one more batch...

I'm going to let Willow sleep in a bit tomorrow. Technically, she doesn't have to get to school until 11:30. I usually get her there early, at the school's YMCA, but with her cold, she could use a bit of extra sleep. Once she's at school, it's back to work for me. I've got a bunch of lesson plans to work on, as well as other related tasks.

Currently listening to: Windy & Carl "Songs for the Broken Hearted"
We went to the library yesterday, and Willow rode her bike, using her new bike lock to lock her little, purple bike next to all the big bikes. We checked out a pile of books and movies, and this turned out to be a good thing, because today she has a fever. We're inside today with our pile of library materials.

Movies, books, and computers turn studio apartments into mansions. Even better, because one doesn't have to hire a staff to maintain things.

Still, I wish we were going out today. I am not by nature an inside person. I can do it for awhile, but I go stir crazy if I have walls around me for too long. For now, we will huddle inside, with Willow watching a dvd and me continuing my ongoing letter to the world here.

I've been keeping this blog for over six years now - almost six and a half. This represents a lot of time spent writing. I still do it mostly for myself, and for the few people who I know read regularly. In some ways, I think things were stagnant for a number of years in the middle. This may have something to do with the effect of unspoken marital problems - I was stuck without knowing I was stuck. My method of dealing with the problem was to not deal with it, which of course put all the responsibility of dealing with it on Jen, and she sure did that, didn't she? I just didn't want to admit that there was a problem, and by the time I fully committed to trying to work things out, it was too late. Chalk it up to fear of failure. Ironic, huh?

Things are what they are now. In some ways I've moved on, but in other ways I haven't. I'm still full of conflicting emotions, and I'm still trying to maintain as much healing distance from Jen as I can under the circumstances. I need this space to heal, but hope that someday I'll be able to relax around her again. She is truly a caring person - flawed, like we all are, of course, but with many good qualities. In the end though, our flaws weren't compatible. We were too much alike in the wrong ways, and not similar enough in other, equally important ways. Sorry if this sounds vague, but I'm not going to drag the details out here.

It's funny to note that once again I ended up writing about this when I didn't start this post with any intention of doing so. Writing is therapy. At work, when helping homesick kids, I often suggest that they write letters to the people (usually parents) they miss. Some kids do this, and it helps.

As for me, I feel that I need to forgive, but can't quite bring myself to do it yet. Underneath the anger lies sadness, and for some reason I'm still more comfortable with the anger. It feels strange to admit this in writing in such a public forum, but I'm doing it anyway. These posts create a reality all of their own, and allow me to revisit my thoughts when needed. Of course, I could be writing this down in a private journal, but I feel the need to put this out there. Maybe it will help somebody else someday. Maybe a new connection will be started somewhere. I don't know. I still have more questions than answers, and often find myself afraid to ask the questions.

Mistakes were made. Brand new mistakes await. Life goes on.

This might leave one with the impression that I'm miserable. I'm not. I actually feel more alive than I have in quite awhile. I also feel a bit of anxiety. I'm working hard at finishing my teaching credential program, and I'll be doing a couple of solo weeks in a sixth grade classroom in March. I've also got to complete an integrated unit, where I draw together History, Language Arts, and Art. This isn't second nature to me yet. I'm still more used to teaching outside, and my style lends itself more towards "teachable moments" and teaching on the fly. Extensive planning is still hard for me (perhaps that's another reason why our marriage failed, in which case this teacher training stuff will help me in a number of ways), and I'm still weak in certain subjects (I'm going to start teaching the math lessons next week, and I approach this with some trepidation). In short, I'm still learning, and I know that my first year as a teacher is going to be a lot of work, just like my last few months as a student (do we ever really stop being students?) will be.

Life is beautiful, and messy. Sometimes it's even a beautiful mess. Sometimes things just take time, and more importantly, work.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I just opened the sliding glass door to let in the cool air, the smell of rain, and the sound of tires on wet asphalt. Oh, and the lone chirping of a nearby bird.

I love this kind of weather. I spent last night listening to the wind pick up, and awakened in the wee hours to the patter of rain. A nearby Raccoon resolutely ignored the rain, and continued to mop scraps of food off a pie plate some lazy person had left on the table outside the camp office. I love watching them use their little hands. They always look so nervous too. I guess if I was a Raccoon, and some nearby human was sleepily staring at me, I'd be nervous too. Humans are, after all, the most dangerous and unpredictable animals on the planet.

Today, I've been inside working on lesson plans. I've been working on creating a unit based on the ancient African civilizations of the Kush and the Nok. Of course, no lesson on the Nok is complete without a barrage of Nok, Nok jokes. I can justify them because they also help build vocabulary.

Don't worry, I won't subject you to them.

Tomorrow, I start teaching the unit, and the rain continues.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The forecast calls for rain later today, and if find that this news positively colors my mood. Perhaps I spend too much time letting events beyond my control propel me through my days, but there's nothing wrong with allowing these events to induce euphoria, no matter how divorced from any action on my part they might be.

Geez. That sounds convoluted, doesn't it? This was brought on by my realization that I spend too much time anticipating action in others, and not enough time taking action. I check my e-mail too often, waiting for who knows what, and I anticipate the snail mail too. I check Facebook too often as well. Why? Maybe because it's easy to do. Maybe because it's easier than doing.

It's not like I don't have a million things to do, most of which are much more real and satisfying than sitting in front of the computer. Why is it that the computer is by turns so compelling and depressing? I think I know... It allows us to connect with the world, but the connection is filtered through the virtual world. We are hiding in our little isolated worlds, and connecting via keystrokes. None of this is really news to me, but I've been feeling dissatisfied lately, so I'm allowing that to spill over onto this blog, so the ennui can dribble down onto my keyboard.

Currently listening to: Bernardo Devlin "Agio"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The night smells like the promise of Spring, and the moon and stars are unreachably distant, as always.

Up here in the hills, everything makes more sense. The moon and stars are just that much closer. The darkness is more profound.

Currently listening to: Monos "Generators"

Monday, February 02, 2009

It's mid-afternoon on a Monday, and the day is warm and still. I went out earlier to buy a few random things - a stapler, dental floss, a new alarm clock that doesn't make the annoying buzzing noise that the old one has started to do, and a couple of other, even less interesting things. Walking back from the store, I saw a large blimp drifting along in the distance. It's not every day that you see a blimp.

I remember hearing about the blimp - it takes people on aerial sightseeing tours of the Bay Area. I think it costs something in the neighborhood of $500 for the ride. I won't be doing that anytime soon. Still, it would be fun.

This weekend, I went to my last Saturday seminar of the term. In the morning, we learned some P.E. games, and spent a lot of time playing with one of those large, colorful parachutes. In the afternoon, for the Fine Arts portion of the seminar, we drew and made paper mache monsters. The day gets my stamp of approval for being the most fun of the Saturday seminars. They saved the best for last.

I'm also still inspired by the Amebix show I went to last weekend. It reaffirmed for me why they're one of my favorite bands. It was great to meet them too. When I really like a band, it's usually because I feel some sort of kinship with them on an aesthetic and ideological level. Amebix are definitely no exception to this rule. Of course, the same goes for people in general too. Thanks to the internet, we can connect like never before, finding our kindred spirits, but in some ways it's frustrating. We connect from a distance, but the distance remains. The world is smaller, but still just as large as ever.

I yearn for something, but I'm not sure exactly what. Something deeper. I get glimpses of it sometimes, but modern society is so oriented towards the surface - it's as if we're all frantically treading water, trying to stay on the surface, not realizing that we have gills, and slowly suffocating due to our ignorance.

We need depth.