Tuesday, August 23, 2005

There's a jar hanging from a towel rack in my kitchen. It's one of those ball jars, not one of those bell jars, like in Edward Gorey's books... the little tailed lizard-thing stuffed and mounted under a bell jar. So, with a nylon stocking stretched over the top and held with a rubber band, there's this ball jar hanging around the kitchen. It's got a bunch of slightly wilted wild carrot leaves and a very nice caterpiller. We've been watching this caterpiller eat leaves and poop. That's all it's been doing. I hung it from the towel rack so it wouldn't get jostled by me washing dishes.

Well now it's not even doing that. It's getting shorter and much, much slower. It's becoming something extremely different, in all the various categories you'd want to bring up. At first you get the idea that it's just sitting there, but if you sit there with it, thinking about the wilted leaves and the poop below, why you'd have to start thinking about Life, the Universe and maybe why the Buddah is like a bag of poop. Or you might start writing Zen poetry like some kind of crazy enlightened Ferlinghetti... be it as it may, it would be a very busy or un-busy time for a soul to be swimming in. So think about this short, green guy hanging on to what he knows, thinking about how if you could just Think about Yourself a different Way, you could Transform Yourself, without losing Your Self.

The thing that's important to recall is that We know it to be True, because it's happening in a ball jar hanging from my towel rack. I have seen it happen before. The Old Man doesn't wake up and a beautiful butterfly remains. A beautiful winged version of itself will rise up, embrace the suns rays and fly away, to some other transformation.

My quiet, powerful sisiter in law is , or may have been, rising from a form to another as we speak. She, too, grew slower and shorter. I think she grew more thoughtful, but unable to speak her growing thoughts. Like that caterpiller, I could not understand what she felt inside, but I know it changed her because I have seen it before. The Old Man doesn't wake up and they close His House. But somewhere there is a new shape flying. We may not even be able to see it's colors or form with our unchanged eyes, but if our hearts are changed by that other transformation, then we can imagine.

In my universe change means Life and Life without Change is something more like poop. It wilts the leaves.

When I first came to this area from the desert, it was in early Autumn, a time of year sacred to the sense of plenty. There were plenty of colors and everything smelled of change. It was somehow very envigorating to see those leaves, and yet had I visited in January I'm not sure that it would have been envigorating per se, but certainly exciting. But never sad, never regretful per se. There is always the "what-ifs" like a game I played when I was 3 or 4. I played it rather a lot and it started to piss off my sisters, because whatever they answered I would produce another question of "What would you do if...?" Now think about an infinite brother and sister going at it over an infinite time and you get a sense of the energies and potential for envigorating a region of Change can be. If Change becomes a Transformation, then a more beautiful, more transcendent Presence is Understood, is Perceived. In a stable infinte universe all elements, all presences, must be equally perceived. But stability is an anathma to Life, so in a Living Infinite Universe there must be Transformation as well as Change. So the butterfly at first may be thinking mostly about controlling those huge freaking wings, especially in a wind.

We go from creating great art and great literature, to being transformed into a flippant thing thinking always about itself. So there is a form of balence made manifest. And a certain kind of energy is seen descending. Or perceived as descending. Like those penny whistles you pulled the rod and the tone went down and in cartoons they used this noise to indicate something descending. There is a parallel Tone going up and if you think about how your heart skips a beat when you watch a butterfly poised for its first flight... how it was so beautiful flitting away to the next leaf, that energy you felt envigorating you was creative energy being released.

I mean, it's hard to think of those flight maneuvers being somehow coded into the wingstems so it could continue to write Beat poetry....undisturbed by flying. What would be the Point to that? All that Change without Transformation somehow envigorates you in a different Way.

And some thought has to be given to the Shell that the Butterfly leaves Behind. It, too, is beautiful and fragile and eventually changes into the Earth. We all of us change into the earth. In the mean time I suppose I will flit from leaf to leaf and try to control those wings of thought that propell me forward, to use a metaphor.

Sometimes the flitting is imposed on from outside, like those settlers in Gaza. Or like a colony of MRSA, passed on from patient to nurse to patient to doctor, to lots of folks. It reminds me of a film I saw in first grade about how cold germs passed from football to people as white X's. Still, those MRSA colonies are made of living things who have gone through all kinds of near extinctions by the best antibiotics we could devise. A thousand plagues were rained down from above and below at these guys and still they raise their kids and still they grow and have a dream, maybe several. They are survivors, yet they are moved from patient to nurse to patient without a way of remaining somewhere, of finding a home. They know the universe is after them because they have their History, and every generation is given this knowlege, how to survive, how to grow, and maybe even how to die.

We spend a lot of time sometimes on imposing changes instead of understanding transformation. I suspect that may be why there are so many ways we have devised to deal with the shells we leave behind.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Well, it's been an interesting couple of weeks. My sister in law died last Friday after struggling with the damage that smoking can do. She was in about the same shape as Dad: trashed heart, broken lungs, mind starting to drift away... Nice lady, but she never tried to save her own life by not smoking. dad had it thrust on him when they opened his chest and rebuilt his heart a couple of times. My sister in law kept smoking while she was dragging a tank of oxygen around. Her son in law helped out by giving her ciggies. Now he's yelling about sueing the hospital and I find it hard to believe he's concerned about his mother in law so much as how much money the lawyer says he'll get. He has no concept that bankrupting a good hospital might be bad for the community. Sometimes I think he had planned this all along, feeding her habit and getting things set up for a lawsuit when she passed. Obviously I don't think highly about the guy. He likes to come up for holidays and smoke dope in the bathroom with the shower goins. Then after they leave I have to wash all the towels and scrub the walls so we don't smell like a 1967 VW van.

I was reading some stuff that John Edwards put up in his effort to run for President next times. It's so sad. All the old lines, all the old slogans... "we can do it"..." now more than ever..." all bullshit. He doesn't have a thought about changing the system, he just wants to be head of it. Maybe that's what's wrong with American politics. People can become head of something and have power and wealth. Maybe if it cost money to remain in power, like you had to pay 80% of your net worth to the Treasury Department, live in the poorest neighborhoods and your kids had to serve in the military... maybe then the only people who would run for the White House would be those people who really want to make positive changes for the poorest of us all.

Well sometime in the next few hours they will lower the casket into the earth and return the mortal remains to the Immortal Earth. Since her illness was caused by chemicals in the brain it would seem to me that she is now sane, or as sane as a mind can get. Curious concept, sanity. Few would argue that the BTK slayer was insane because he caused so many deaths, yet our Secretary of War is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and few would call him insane. People will pray over the casket today and speak of God and rewards and so forth, yet in the long run maybe the idea of a reward for having lived any kind of a life misses the point of mortality. Maybe mortality is a reward for the hardship of being immortal, like a dip in a cool pond during a heat wave, especially if the heat wave never stops. It's easy to be smart and creative if you are immortal and omnipotent. Struggling with a body and a finite length of time and still managing to be smart, talented or just mostly sane takes a lot out of you. Obviously that jerk in Kansas didn't have what it took and that jerk in Washington doesn't have what it took. Yet my poor sister-in-law managed, even with mental illness tugging at her mind day and night, to be mostly sane, mostly caring, even motherly. Trapped in a ghetto most of her life with few ways out, she raised a daughter who became a mother. She had her pride and a certain dignity by meeting life's hardships with her head held high. When her heart finally stopped and her tattered lungs stopped working she could say she had done it all, pretty much. Her sisters have cried for her, her daughter and grand daughter will miss her terribly. I will remember her smiles and her little voice, always thankful for a kindness and always thinking of ways to be kind to others. She gave bad gifts with an open heart and appreciated any kind of gift or act of kindness in return. The last time I saw her she was in bed with a little smile on her face, waving goodbye to me, her teddy bear nearby. I'm gonna miss her, but not the confusion and turmoil she brought with her. Family memories, old wounds, old times.... she brought them with her for the holidays, along with her daughter and her son-in-law. Still, those problems were minor and soon forgotten. In their place we have the photos of her holding the baby, smiling at the hope of the next generation. There's a whole lot of folks out there who have given the world far less of themselves and with less goodwill.
When it happens to me it will be easier on those I leave behind, I hope. No caskets, no flowers or deadlines to meet. Hand out the parts, let the blind see, let those who need kidneys or marrow, or whatever I'm done with and haven't trashed take what they need and burn the rest. Scatter the ashes or work into a nice ash glaze and put me on a pot and then on holidays you can stick some flowers in that pot and tell me how good I look. Why not? If I was a pothead when I lived, let me be a pot in death. Wouldn't it be interesting if the person seeing with my corneas someday saw the person who is seeing with Larry's corneas? Would we recognize one another? "Something in the eyes..."

Be good to yourself while you yet live
Give of yourself while you can yet give
Life is a song with chorus and rhyme
We sing to the stars in 8 bar time
And once we are done we pour us a beer
Chug it on down and "Another round over here!"
No hangover, no headache, no embarassing gaffes
Just a beer over here and a belly of laughs

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bob's stuck Posted by Picasa
Neighbor Bob is moving dirt. Out in the darkness, except for a couple of shoplights, Bob is moving dirt with a front end loader that he bought pretty much for this exact usage. So there's Bob out moving dirt from a huge pile of dirt that overlaps my property line to the space just under his new porch on his new house. Bob's old house burnt up. Or burnt down. It's gone now, just some debris buried in a hole in the yard. I made the call to 911 when I saw brown smoke pouring out of the attic. Too early for a dinner barbecue and too brown for anything I'd like to eat. In the end they saved mostly nothing, just some photos and a few paperback books. Not the ones I loaned them, ironically enough, just some old books that had been in the right place at the right time.

Above the fridge there was a cabinet and nothing was burned in there. Next to that cabinet was another cabinet and in that cabinet was a box of saran wrap. Next to the box were a few plastic bowls. The bowls were melted into one big glob dripping down the cabinet and onto the burnt floor. The box of saran wrap was slightly soiled. Oddly enough, Bob saved from the fire a few books and box of slightly soiled plastic wrap. This is a lesson in karma.

Upstairs, in the living room that Bob had created from a space above what had been a two car garage, a space that became a lovely carpetted room with a big TV and a big leather couch, a kitten was sleeping in a box in a corner. The upstairs didn't burn, but the smoke from the kitchen below and the dining room below and the box of saran wrap wafted up into the living room and into the lungs of the kitten sleeping and the kitten never woke up. Bob's wife cried when they brought out the box with the kitten in it. She and the children all cried when the towel was pulled away and the kitten was in the box, not sleeping but just as still.

I buried the kitten out back near the other small graves from previous kittens and previous dogs and maybe a goldfish or something like that. I did a ritual and said some words and let the kids say goodbye to a kitten they never got to know very well.

This was a year ago.

Bob is moving dirt around his great new house, his neo-Victorian house with it's movie theatre in the basement and the 20' tall ceiling in the dining nook and the master bedroom on the first floor instead of the second floor in the neat tower with three big windows because Bob's wife has bad knees and can't climb stairs very well. Bob's house has radiant heat in the floor and R-52 walls made of concrete-asphalt shingles that can't burn. It has a computer in the wall to control the hot water that runs thru the maze of tubing under the floor. It has an oak door to the back yard that is twice as carved and twice as expensive as the front door I have on my house. It has a bar/dancefloor in the basement, and a gym/bedroom next to that. It has a secret room that doesn't have a door because they have to wait for the inspectors to get through with their inspections.

But it doesn't have a kitten sleeping in a box near the bedrooms.

They did try, but the kitten ran out into the street and got hit by a car, so they decided not to have another kitten for awhile. Instead, they have a wrap-around porch, fiber optic cables in the walls, three bathrooms, five bedrooms, a formal dining room, a family room, a dining nook and at the moment a couple of big piles of dirt from digging the basement out. Bob set the project back a bit when he buried the steam shovel in the slurry he created when he struck water digging the hole for the basement. But it made a good picture.

I think when the dirt is all spread out and the border plants have grown and the grass has set in and the hydrangea is back to it's old self, that Bob is going to get a kitten and make a box near the bed where he and his wife sleep. Bob likes kittens and cats and enjoys it when mine come to visit, when he has stopped digging and moving dirt. My cats seemed to enjoy his company, too. Oona rarely came over, but Ghetti did quite often and watched Bob work on his cars.

Now Oona and Ghetti are sleeping the Long Sleep out back where I buried them, with rituals, tears and grey skies. Something about kitten and cats just makes a guy feel like it's a home. I've always had one around even when I was longing for a dog that didn't dig up my flowers. Maybe the followers of Bast have been reborn here in Wilton and are conducting their rituals and burying their dead just like before, except they don't remember being in Egypt.

There's so much I don't remember. There's so much I have forgotten. I can't remember the name of that kitten that died in the smoke filled room next door. That troubles me a bit, that I would bury a cat with such dignity and ceremony and then forget it's name. I suppose a name is just a label that falls off in the wash water like the mayo jar I clean before tossing in the recycling barrel. Was it Hellman's, or the generic brand? I suppose as long as we feel satisfied with the end result, it's all the same.

Bob has stopped digging in the dirt and the lights are out. It's time for me to go to bed and dream of kittens.