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I killed a bug while doing yoga today

13 Nov

I’ve been programmed to believe that is wrong.

However, in the moment it felt like a perfectly fine thing to do.

I do not regret my actions, though I do have some remorse for the poor critter whose life I shortened though probably not considerably since insects tend to have very short life-spans comparatively speaking. It did pass my mind that I was doing a service of some kind.

I have a healthy sense that I was an instrument in passing. I don’t have guilt. I don’t feel used, but I don’t feel unaffected either.

I thought about killing it. I considered the consequences. It never crossed my mind to capture the thing in a glass jar with a plate underneath like I usually do for scorpions and tarantulas. It was not dangerous or large or too fast for me to catch. It was just there.

It was just there at that precise moment when I was able to reach my shoe (which is usually behind me, out of reach) with one hand while maintaining my balance, kill the thing and continue with my practice.

Afterward, I did think one thought: I killed a bug while doing yoga today.

Cuánto

10 Oct

How much can I miss you
Cuánto te extraño

no matter how the day goes
aunque no el dia se pase

I long for you each evening
te deseo cada noches

and every morning when I awake
y despierto todas las mañanas

my heart is full of you once more
reponer mi corazón con su fe

vista al lago

How deep is the night

Call for Help

4 Oct

You just barged in

On my glass-faced

50’ bamboo shoot

With permission from

Your uncle, the baker

Closed down up top

Schools out

Foods on, the table

Turned legs up

For liberty

You sat in on my sit in

Trampled my tiles

With your horse feet

Cut up besides

Boracho barbers

I can hear the chewing

In my sleep

When two roads converged in a wood, I took the Allelopath

18 Apr

Allelopathy, I discovered yesterday—is the effect one species has upon the growth, survival and reproduction of another species by chemical, biological or ecological processes. For instance, a tree that grows to be tall and wide benefits the humans beneath it by providing shade where they may have a picnic, make sweet love and carve their initials into the pliable bark marking the first moment of their life-long commitment to benefit each other and their future children. The same tree does not allow any other species to thrive beneath it because of the very shade that benefits the humans.

I also discovered that plants aren’t the only ones with allelopathic tendencies.

It was a typical Tuesday morning eradication session at the Leon Creek Greenway where the Invaders volunteer their time to eradicate non-native invasive species. Ie. Kill things, record how and when they were killed, pinpoint a GPS location of the slaying and record it in a national database. It’s satisfying work because you can see the difference you are making in a landscape right away. Where once there was a mono-culture of invasive species, you can see the potential for new native growth almost immediately. Kind of like getting a haircut: It always makes you feel better about your future somehow.

This day was going along par for the course. I had my first kill and a fat one at that—around six inches in diameter. I had to use my Gomboy or folding handsaw. Felt good to get a big one under my belt first thing. I called out my count and the code for loathed Chinaberry Tree. Most of the trees we eradicated that morning were big Chinas. We had a crew of about 10 and it only took two to do the work of even the biggest tree. So the rest of us just sort of milled about watching or looking for our own pre-flagged specimen to fell.

I’ve been on several of these expeditions before but this one was different in so many ways, it really made me stop and think. The work we did at Rancho Diana seemed much more unobtrusive. We weren’t felling large trees but we were pulling, chopping and spraying hundreds of Nandina every week. There was the “Nandina Forest” where the bamboo-like plant had taken over an entire area of underbrush. That week I learned how to identify Nandia in every  stage of life from a newly formed sprig to a mature bush with berries. Somehow it seemed not only physically easier to hand-pluck the babies from the lush fertile forest floor but cognitively, I didn’t suffer other decisions. Like, which weapon to most effectively destroy the thing. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time with the same plant sawing or even break a sweat. All I had to do was seek, identify and destroy. Now look out honey, ’cause I’m usin’ tech-knowledgey…Somebody come and help me please…Somebody better save my soul! Wha? Oh, sorry Iggy Pop sideline. Happens every time.

So, the other thing is that something gets me out there in the civilized wild. A trail runs through it, but nature remains in control. Very early in our first effort to girdle a hug-sized Ligustrum we were verbally accosted by a few well-intentioned tree evangelists who proclaimed us “black-hearted sinners” for our defiant act of ecological restoration.

Black hearted sinners forever

Black hearted sinners forever

“We’re all invasive species!” She exclaimed passionately.

I see her point. So who decides?

If nature or her G-d for that matter saw fit for this plant to grow and thrive who are we to destroy it?

My rebuttle was weak. “But it will KILL all the other plants.”

Interesting perspective. Not true though.

It in fact, does nothing actively to kill anything. It only exists for the sole-purpose of existing.

Sure, its leaves drop and make the soil beneath it more alkaline insuring its own survival and the survival of other plants whose tastes agree. Sure, its canopy is large and dense to the detriment of many beneath it, earning it its nickname The Umbrella Tree. Sure, its prolific berries fall and turn to seeds and take their turns growing where they are unsurreptitiously planted. But if blame is due, it might just as well rest on the wings of that ill-fated bird who eats—gorges itself actually—becomes drunk on the toxic berries, flies downstream and deposits the seed at the mouth of another river where Chinaberry has never grown before and then dies. But not before making another even less desirable deposit of bloody seed encrusted feces on your freshly washed but unfortunately unwaxed clear coat instantly lowering your resale value.

Ultimately, we are the ones responsible for introducing the plant here in the first place. It’s a beautiful tree. Resilient. Hardy. Fast growing. Deciduous and flowering; it provides a brilliant if not common display of something in every season. It only becomes ugly when you see it choke out every other species or block a river from flowing freely. If you never saw a snake strike, you could assume it had no fangs. In these woods, the Chinaberry are sparse but large. They aren’t showing their fangs here. But as anyone who has ever been bitten by a snake knows: Size does matter.

Somewhere downstream or over the next hill or around the far bend the effects of these and several other non-native invasives that you can buy and are often touted as best use landscaping plants because of their tolerance for neglect and extreme weather. And that’s our justification for killing. G-d save our black-hearted souls! Funny thing though, they always seem to sprout back up in threes for each  individual we take down to a stump. Some say it’s a futile effort. We call it job security.

Makes ya kinda wonder though, doesn’t it.

Sitting for the Master

14 Apr

Sometimes a painting is just a painting. Sometimes it’s more. Sometimes it speaks when you stop long enough to listen. Sometimes you recognize it in a crowd of strangers as a potential friend. Sometimes you meet and sit and after a while you realize you’ve found a life-long connection. That’s how it was with The Turnip and me.

The Turnip

The Turnip by  Seth Camm 

And that’s how it was sitting for Seth among the titanic greek columns of Mr. Santikos’ Palladium Theater/Bar where he is showing his art work and painting in the forward-thinking gallery spawned by the success of The Wonderland of America’s Bijou Theater, where his fiancée Rebecca Coffey is showing her art to movie goers who may or may not be intentionally seeking more from their entertainment than Hollywood has to offer. Can we just go to the movie now? Not yet, I’m still looking!

So, tell me how this works. What do I do?

Just sit there and look pretty.

Can I move? Look around?

Well, you can but not too fast or it’ll turn out blurry.

Hm. Easiest job I’ve done all week. Sure beats cleaning poo and rat guts on the snake farm.

But staring at the faces of the ones who came before, I somehow felt unworthy. Still I was giddy. At home now, I’m certain I was wearing that “shit eating grin” my dad used to call the look my face when they fought. The one I put on when they inevitably said, “Wipe that smile off your face.” The one that turned itself down at the edges so even though I felt like I was smiling, it didn’t offend anyone because I appeared to be just as unhappy as they were.

Break time!

And the first time I’ve ever seen what someone else sees when they see me.

Wow is all I can say. I know. I’m supposed to be a writer and all I’ve got is wow. To be fair, I’m in awe of this person before me. Of his talent. Of his grace. Of the way his eyes translate the world outside him to his hands in that esoteric language known only to trained artisans who practice attaining nothing less than perfection on a daily basis. Who continue with the daunting, joyful task of living and creating new things in absolute faith every single day of their lives for the pure joy of it. Because life would not be worth living without it and despite the fact that though they may reach seemingly unattainable heights they may be the only ones who recognize it and that has to be reward enough.

Can I get you anything?

A shot-gun, a twelve pack and a passing buffalo.

Would you settle for some chocolate?

I’m going to turn you blue now.

But wait! I’ve been blue for so long. I want to be a different color now. I want to wipe that shit eating grin off my face and glow.

I didn’t bring enough white to finish.

But I’m ready! I’m ready for my face to reflect how I feel inside. How rich, happy, loved and secure I am all by myself though it may not seem like it because I’m talking my head off like a teenager on three-way. I want to shine like the women on the wall. But are they really happy or does the master see something in all of us no one else can?

Someone enters the space. Someone who looks quite comfortable looking at art and in her own skin. Someone who doesn’t wait to be invited, is first to offer a smile and says, “I like your light.” Someone who means what she says in every way possible.

It was the best compliment I had ever heard given to an artist. It was a compliment not only to his work and his talent but his existence. Because the master uses light, needs light, reflects light and is light.

It may make a nice underpainting for something in the future.

In the shadowy outline on his canvas, I saw so much in me—so much potential for a finished piece. So much potential for a finished person—though we are all a work in progress. It was definitely me, or at the very least the me the people passing by could see as their eyes widened in disbelief. It reminded me of that fresh feeling you get when you step out of the shower and see yourself for the first time in the steamy mirror. You can’t see it yet, but you know you’re under there and all you have to do is sweep your hand across the cool glass to reveal it.

So many feelings in a glance. I had to look away. It was too beautiful. I practically ran outside to text everyone I know how awesome it was to be sitting for the master. The truth is I was afraid to see what he saw. I covered it up with small talk and giggles and he knew it too.

I lost the likeness of you.

I’m going down a path here that’s getting a bit steep, but sitting for the master always is isn’t it.

At home now, I realize I was afraid to see my own potential. But in that light, I felt that someday when I’m brave enough, I’ll look myself in the eyes and allow him to show me the beauty he sees. Until that day, I’m quite comfortable practicing my own perfection faithfully in perpetuity. I will continue with the daunting, joyful task of living and creating new things in absolute faith every single day of my life for the pure joy of it. Because life would not be worth living without it and despite the fact that though I may reach seemingly unattainable heights I may be the only one who recognizes it and that has to be reward enough.

Thanks for sitting for me tonight.

No thank you. It was an honor.

Living the dream

10 Apr

So, I know this guy and whenever you ask him what he’s up to, he says: “Livin’ the dream.” And he smiles this sardonic, sarcastic smile that reminds me of the scar tissue on a bleeding ulcer. But it’s true for him. He is living the dream of the typical American – work hard, make tons of cash and save, save, SAVE for retirement. Except he works so hard at working that he has zero time for a home life where things continuously and predictably fall into disrepair. He works so hard at working he has no time to eat or exercise so his body falls into disuse and disease. He works so hard at working that his family sub-conciously creates disaster crisis scenarios for him to fix because that’s the only time he responds to their pleas for attention. And every day is a crisis because the guy is a genuinely good guy and people want him in their lives.

He thinks himself different than most because he practices austerity. He fixes things. He knows how to cook a good, healthy meal for his family and he does so on all the very special occasions or very nearly. He buys things with cash. He has no desire to wear the latest trends or sport the newest ride. But he’s no different from anyone who ever mouthed the words, “I need to be financially stable to feel secure.”

What does that mean exactly? For me, it means cutting my expenses to the point where I know I can get a job anywhere, anytime to meet them and gaining the experience to do whatever job might come my way. To him it means $300k a year. To you it might mean, $56k but the fact remains you’re putting a numeric value on security. Security which by every standard of American living in the last century was all but guaranteed to you if you “worked hard”.

So what is working hard?

Returned my uniform yesterday

28 Dec

R. says as long as he likes me, and he does—I can work with him every day this week. I ponder the thought and begin planning how busy I will be with my real job tomorrow. Probably so busy I won’t even get to go outside I say aloud. When I get home, I’ll check my e-mail and let you know for sure this evening. It’s feast or famine this business.

I’ve finished almost the entire bottle of water and I can tell R. is getting a little miffed. Either that or he is tired after a busy day of deliveries that will surely be followed by another two weeks of busy days; followed by another 20 years. But, at least we’re outside, he reassures himself over the blower motor. The blast of hot air from the engine compartment reminds me of O. I miss him in all his incompetent splendor. He was a good guy.

The company has a strict policy regarding sexual harassment. They didn’t tell us what it was, just that it is very strict. After three days of riding together, you learn a lot about a person whether they tell you or not. As R. pondered just how great our communication would be in three days if it was already this good today; I was getting sentimental over O. My first driver. I guess you never really get over your first. They’re the ones who teach you how to do things for the first time. Right or wrong, you’ll always remember them and compare their ways to the ways of all those who follow. Beyond that, there’s a trust established when you are forced into a new or potentially dangerous situation with complete strangers and come out alive.  Just like the driver helper group initially bonded over our common need to find a job and found ourselves gathered around a table just like Thanksgiving Dinner I felt myself thrust into the great brown world of logistics—it’s sustainable don’tcha know.

O. and I established a higher level of trust than most by the second day. He had no sooner confided in me that his boss was no less than requiring him to have a better day and entered the code for the gate when a car zoomed around us activating the only one car per entry mechanism that sends the boom gate—the wooden thing that goes down at railroad crossings and airport parking and apparently, this complex—into action. There was no time to respond. We went barreling through and the thing came down a lot more violently than I ever expected between the force of the big, brown truck and the forward movement. It cracked like lightening over the passenger mirror. I closed my eyes and leaned to the left as far as possible while covering my face with my right arm. It dragged alongside the outside of the truck until it finally dislodged itself, broke off and fell to the ground with a hollow thwack. Apparently, this was not going to be a better day.

Jesus! Are you okay?! O. shouts and unbuckles himself as soon as we have come to a safe stop. I’m kinda stunned but fine. Your face! Let me see it, he laments and reaches cradled palms toward my chin, lifting it up to his eyes. Not a scratch. Did that scare you? I’m really sorry. No, no. I’m fine. Really. He gives me little signals that he really is a good dad and a caring person but this is something more. We sit there smoking for a minute before O. makes the call to his boss. We’re going to be here for a while if you want to snack, he says pushing gently past me to exit on my side. I’m still buckled in. I don’t understand how you eat so much and stay so thin. Well, there’s not much room to pack it in so I eat often. Do you want some of my almonds and apricots? Girl, you know I have a toothache and you’re offering me that hard-ass shit? It’s all I brought.

There was a time I would have taken that personally but this is not it. I know he is suffering. He plays it off but I am beginning to wonder if the reason I didn’t hear from him on the fourth day is because he got fired. The damage to the truck blended right in with the other scratches. Apparently, live oak is just as strong as whatever that non-splintering material in the gate was. Thank god there was no shrapnel, O. thinks to himself so loud I can hear. Could have scratched her face up bad. The security guard for the complex shows up and assures O. that he will be getting a bill in the mail for $150. O. shrugs that off too and seems confident in the knowledge that the company will pay. I’ll be a witness if you need one, I say. There was absolutely no way you could have stopped. That car came out of nowhere and cut right in front of you. At every subsequent gate, I look into the mirror for him as he enters the code and give the all clear.