When (Wo)men Make Plans… – or – Emotional Whiplash In Paradise

I will never understand how some people seem to control their destiny.  From a young age they are sure of what they want to be and do when they grow up, they set out to accomplish those goals, and then live out the lives they imagined for themselves.  I think most people are more like me, though: Mr. Magoo-ing our way through life, drifting like a leaf on a stream, being bumped and jostled by rocks along the way, and ending up somewhere they never envisioned.

Never has this been more apparent for me than the past three months or so.  In July, I wrote out a five year plan for my life and business, had a conversation with some close friends about how Austin was my home and I had no intention of leaving it, went on a beach vacation with my family, and then – for better or worse – on the second to last day of vacation I just happened to check Facebook right when the manager of the Parrot Garden at Best Friends Animal Society happened to post a job opening in her department.

I’ve known Jacque, the Parrot Garden manager, for almost three years now.  She contacted me in early 2011 asking permission to give copies of my Bird Owner’s Manual out to their adopters.  Of course I said yes, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.  So when I saw that she was hiring, I didn’t even pause to think about it; I sent in an application.  Within an hour I heard back from HR, requesting an interview a few days later, and then after the phone interview I was asked to come out for a two week evaluation period, that just a little over a week later.  I had nine days to settle things with current clients, refer them out to colleagues, wrap things up with Dr. Bendall, and prepare for my trip.

The two week evaluation was a blast.  I knew that this was the job for me, and worth completely unending my entire life at the drop of a hat.  I was offered the job, and had almost, but not quite, two weeks to get back home, pack up my life, wrap up loose ends with my business and with Austin Parrot Society, and move up here.

The Move

Frantic doesn’t even begin to describe our moving process.  We were packing and loading the van literally up to the last minute, and when we ran out of space in the van, I ended up leaving several travel cages, playstands, garden supplies, plants, and worst of all, my beautiful Betta fish, Zephyr, behind.  I was bawling as we pulled away from our house.  But even worse, because we left several hours later than intended, our plan to have the cats and birds in their crates in the car (with the windows rolled down, of course) hauled behind the U-Haul did not go over well.  They were overheating before we even started moving.  So we made a pit stop at my parents’ house, brought them all inside, gave them showers, and waited until sundown to get back on the road.  To call me an emotional wreck would be putting it nicely.

The overnight trip through Texas was uneventful.  I guess the only noteworthy part was when we drove through the massive windfarm, where each windmill had a blinking red light on it, so there were blinking red lights against the black sky as far as the eye could see.  And then, right in front of us, a bright green meteorite exploded amidst all the red lights.  Surreal.  I wish I could’ve gotten pictures of it; it was truly something I’ll never forget.

Although our drive through Texas went smoothly, if there was anything that Chuck and I learned on this trip, it’s that we are apparently allergic to state borders.

We crossed the New Mexico border right after 5 am, and as the sun rose I had reached my limit.  I was about to pass out, completely drained from the emotional departure and the all night drive (actually, Chuck had driven for a few hours in the middle of the night, but I was still so tense from the day’s mishaps that I didn’t sleep at all).  So, just past the border, I pulled into a gas station to fill the tank, grab a drink, and let Chuck take over driving.  Unfortunately, there was an emaciated and limping pittie girl sitting right in front of the pumps, looking simultaneously pathetic and hopeful.  Not wanting to run her over, I took a shorter turn than I should have and ran over the curb with the back tire.  The tire instantly exploded.

Too sleep deprived and spent to think straight, Chuck saved the day by finding the number of the U-Haul roadside assistance, so I gave them a call, and a little under an hour later, someone showed up and saved our butts.  I will be forever grateful to that man, for not only showing up at the buttcrack of dawn to fix the U-Haul, but also for being cheerful, encouraging, and generally awesome while doing so.  He cheered us up, made us laugh, and got us back on the road feeling better than before the whole incident happened.

The northern half of New Mexico is indeed enchanted, as they claim.  Sadly, we didn’t get to go through my favorite part, which is basically everything from Santa Fe north, but I did love the scenery and probably would have loved it more under more desirable circumstances.  And while Chuck was driving, I finally reached the point of exhaustion where I was able to cat nap for about 45 minutes or so.

However, once again, we were just a few miles from the Arizona border when we stopped for gas at a station where a huge biker club was parked.  Their motorcycles were sprawled out across most of the parking lot, leaving very little room for us to maneuver the 20-ft U-Haul with the car in tow.  Chuck pulled up to the pump uneventfully, but when we were done and tried to pull out of the parking lot, we got stuck.  I got out to help direct Chuck as he tried to correct our trajectory, but he couldn’t hear me when I was yelling at him to stop, the car trailer jack-knifed, and one of the chains broke off the trailer.  It was Chuck’s turn to be nonplussed.  Fortunately, thanks to the catnap I was at the point of exhaustion where I was too irritated to give a fuck, so I grabbed a wrench, forced the bent O-ring open, jerry-rigged the chain back around so it would once again secure the car trailer to the U-Haul, put a new link in the chain through the O-ring, and forced that bitch back closed again.  I know it wasn’t that big of a deal, but at the time, and under those circumstances, I totally felt like a badass.

The parts of Arizona we drove through were also fairly magical, and someday I’d like to go back and explore a few of those areas, but by this time I was so exhausted and in so much physical pain that I just wanted the whole thing to be over with.  Consequentially that drive felt like the longest stretch of the trip, even though in reality it was actually the shortest.  The U-Haul was carrying so much weight that I was having to really press into the gas pedal just to get it up to 55 mph, so my legs were completely swollen and sore.  I was so tired that I was physically in pain from head to toe, and nothing seemed real.  We were in a race against the sunset to try to get to Kanab before dark so that we didn’t have to unload the truck in pitch black, but it wasn’t to be.

Once again, we got to Page, which is just a few miles from the Utah border, and yet another mishap struck.  One of the roads to Kanab from Page was washed out a few months ago, so there was a detour sign posted to send folks to the other, un-washed-out highway.   Unfortunately, the creators of these roads weren’t all that creative, so both highways are named 89.  And also unfortunately, the people who set up the detour signs weren’t super good at posting clear, easy to follow directions.  So when we followed the detour signs from the 89 we were on to the 89 that was the detour, we accidentally ended up turning left on the 89 that was washed out instead of the 89 that wasn’t washed out.  We realized our mistake when we passed a flashing red sign that said “road closed”, but our talented road-smiths *also* aren’t very good about thinking to themselves, “Gee, we should probably create a safe place for trucks to be able to turn around, in case they accidentally head in the wrong direction.”  So we kept driving for a couple of miles, looking for a place to turn around, and finally found a place that *looked* wide enough.  Oh no.  It wasn’t.  And once again, we jack-knifed.  We were stuck.  The car and trailer were facing the wrong direction; the U-Haul was facing the right direction, but had no more road to drive on.  So we decided, hey, no way around but forward.  Those frail-looking sage bushes surely would be no match for a several ton U-Haul, right?  WRONG.  I drove over one.  It lifted the front tires right off the ground, and that thick desert sand sunk the back tires down almost to their axles.

At this point, I full on, straight up, lost my shit.  We had been awake for 40 hours, and driving for 26.  We had already encountered and overcome two major obstacles right around state borders.  I simply didn’t have the reserves to gracefully and intelligently tackle this third one.  I called the U-Haul roadside service number again, but this time the operator on the other end had difficulty understanding me through my panicked sobs.  I also called two of my future co-workers, incoherently babbling at them through sobs that I needed them to please come get my animals, because we were going to be stuck out there in the desert at night, and snakes would get into their crates and eat them.  *Of course* that’s completely absurd and irrational, but sleep deprivation and stress will do that to your ability to think and behave rationally.

Fortunately for us, a lovely couple lives right off the road right by that area where so many people before us had attempted to turn around like we had, and they saw us get stuck, and they drove up to us and asked us if we needed any help.  Chuck handled this one for me, since he was far more calm and stable than I was in that moment.  He explained what was going on to the couple, and they told us that trucks get stuck in the exact spot we did every single day, for the exact same reasons we did.  So they were used to helping hapless victims get unstuck.  Also, somehow another dude showed up in a truck, and between that dude and the couple who lived there, they got our U-Haul hitched up to the Mystery Dude’s truck.  I didn’t think it would work, honestly.  What’s one truck against several tons of U-Haul/car?  But let me tell you something: that Ford F150 slogan?  You know the one, “Built tough”?  Yeah, that’s not just advertising.  That’s legit.  Mystery Dude’s truck’s hitch was bending at a 45 degree angle like it was about to snap off, but it hauled our U-Haul right over that deceptively sturdy sage bush, out of the soft, deep sand, and back onto the road.  We thanked them all profusely – me through my sobs, which I could not for the life of me get under control – and got back on the road.

It was almost midnight when we pulled up to our house.  Too exhausted and sore to unload anything, we just grabbed the sofa cushions, some blankets, the animals, and all of our overnight bags.  I gave all the babies fresh food and water, set up litter boxes, and got ready for bed.  Are you familiar with the word “cankles”?  You know, where your calves go straight down to your feet because your ankles are the same width as your calves?  Well, I had “thankles”.  My feet, ankles, and knees were so swollen from the arduous drive and pressing that damn gas pedal to the floor for a full day that my thighs went down to my feet in a straight line.  No exaggeration.  I propped my legs up on some pillows, placed bags of frozen veggies over my knees and ankles, and promptly passed out.

When I woke up in the morning, I could’ve kissed our property managers for leaving us hand soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and epsom salts.   Never were such simple gestures of hospitality and thoughtfulness more greatly appreciated.

***01.29.13 EDIT***

I had intended to finish this blog, talking about settling into the the new job and new town, but got busy and forgot.  It’s been five months since we moved here now, so this entry is way after the fact, but whatever.  I’m just going to post it as-is and move on.  Maybe in a few months I’ll remember to post another entry.

P.S. I clearly suck at blogging, since I never freaking remember to actually do it.  🙂

I’m Naive, Not Stupid. There’s a Difference.

Texas women should know about this.

The Oeditrix

This morning I woke up after a surreal night with a lot on my mind. One phrase in particular was ringing in my ears: “Don’t be naive, Amy.”

Back when I quit writing for CultureMap Austin over a nasty, misogynist editorial masquerading as a news story by the Dallas staff, the business manager (then–he’s since been fired) called me up on the phone to “discuss” my decision.

What he really wanted was to cajole or shame me into reversing my position–if not publicly, at least in a private phone call. He talked in circles, but having survived grad school, I am not easily confused even by smart people talking in circles, much less idiots. While some of the details of the call have become fuzzy in my mind, one stands out. After he had failed to make his arguments look logical for half an hour, he went ahead and said what bullies…

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The Traditional, Albeit Belated, New Year’s Post.

Well, if January is anything to go on, the theme of 2013 is going to be Learning How To Manage Expectations.  So far, every single plan I’ve made has been thwarted.  Everything I’ve looked forward to and hoped for has fallen through.  Everything I have set out to accomplish hasn’t happened.  And as I described here, I’ve taken a series of financial and emotional hits.

I find myself, at the end of the first month of the year, drained.  Exhausted.

And yet.

On a cerebral level, I can see how these events are good for me.  From an objective standpoint, this month hasn’t been bad.  Aside from Zuma almost getting his tongue ripped out, I can tick off the benefits of all these disruptions and  unexpected events.  When I think about it, even Zuma’s accident has yielded a beneficial change in my life: due to the decision to no longer housesit, I have decided to start boarding birds instead, which will be a good source of income while allowing me to stay at home more.  The unproductive east side of my garden and Archie’s death and subsequent burial on that side of the yard has inspired new plans to put in a memorial xeriscaped / succulent garden.  The disruption of my plans on a few occasions has resulted in new friendships being formed.  The financial hit I’ve taken has encouraged me to get back to my healthier, home-cooked eating habits.  It’s all good things.

I can't wait to do something like this in my yard.

I can’t wait to do something like this in my yard.

So why am I feeling drained?  Because of my emotional attachment to my expectations.  Every time a plan has been thwarted, my reaction has been frustration, rather than acceptance.  Instead of embracing the unforeseen, I’ve been clinging to my own personal agendas.  Having something ripped from my emotional grasp is painful; if I can learn to voluntarily let go, the experience will be painless.

So, instead of doing New Year’s resolutions like I have in the past, I want to set only one goal for myself: to accept, joyfully and willingly, whatever happens in 2013.  Instead of making more resolutions, I need to learn to be less resolute, more pliable.  So here’s to the next 11 months, and whatever they may bring!

A Yoga Practice a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.

So it’s been forever since I’ve blogged, mostly because I haven’t had any time to.  Life has been insanely busy lately.  The problem is, I hear myself saying that a lot. Life is *always* insanely busy.  And I admit: I have a problem.  I chronically over-commit myself.  I always think I’ll have enough time to do xyz, but I never do.  As a result, I’m constantly living my life in a state of stress and guilt for not being productive enough, not getting enough done, not meeting deadlines, etc.  And as a result of that, the things that I do to take care of myself – to keep myself healthy, grounded, and calm – end up happening sporadically at best.

It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?  I get stressed out, so I sacrifice the very things that help relieve that stress in order to get “more important” things done, but because I’m not taking care of myself and I’m not on top of my game, I’m not as productive as I could be.  So then I’m more stressed out, which means that I continue to skip the me-time for the “more important” things, and the cycle continues.

This cycle has to stop.  I need to change.  I’m gaining weight; I feel awful; old injuries are rearing their ugly heads; old health problems are cropping back up.  It’s gotten to the point where I feel old again, even though I’m only in my early thirties, and once again I see my body as a collection of injuries and failures and limitations instead of strength, beauty, and ability.

As a behavior consultant, one of the big things I tell my clients is to not focus on what the learner can’t and shouldn’t do and instead teach the learner what they can and should do.  So why am I not doing the same thing for myself?  I know that I have certain injuries and limitations which prevent me from doing certain poses in yoga and which require me to put hooping and horseback riding on hiatus.  So what?  I can still focus on the poses that I can do.

I also need to set myself up to succeed by creating a more realistic goal for myself.  I can’t change the fact that sometimes life is so busy that I barely have time to breathe.  So no, it’s not realistic to expect myself to pull out my mat every day and do a full 90 minute practice.  But I can do three poses a day, whenever, wherever, mat or no.  One of my yoga teachers once said that one of her yoga teachers told her that if you can do nothing else, at least do trikonasana, uttanasana, and legs up the wall.  Five minutes.  Three poses.  I could do them right before bed, no big whoop.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Legs Up a Wall (Self-Explanatory)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s the goal I’m setting for myself: to do yoga every day, those three poses at the very minimum.  For every month that I successfully do yoga every day, I’ll put at least $30 in my savings account.  At the end of next year (Dec 31, 2013), I’ll take all my saved up money and treat myself to something awesome. What that something awesome is will depend on how much money I’ve been able to save up.  Does anyone want to go in on this with me?  We can hold each other accountable.  We can be accountabilibuddies!

The garden explodes.

Well, summer is officially here, and with it, all kinds of fun new discoveries–well, some fun, some not so fun.  So much has happened since last time!  Where to start?

For starters, my semi-xeriscaped plot bloomed last month.  Since it’s a brand new garden and I let a rogue squash overrun a huge part of it, it was a small affair, but I got some prettypretty flowers from it nonetheless.  Here are a few examples:

 

The veggie plot, on the other hand, has had a rough time of it.  I harvested all my spring veggies and put in my started summer seeds, but they’ve really been struggling.  First of all, I’ve been gone a lot, housesitting for various clients, so I’ve missed a day of watering here and there.  The little babies don’t handle that too well, so I’ve lost a lot to just drying out.

But more devastating than that, the caterpillars have been out in full force.  They left my one remaining adult chard alone, and haven’t really bothered the baby tomatoes or cucumbers, but have devastated all the kale, both young and old, the fennel, the carrots, and the brussels sprouts.  I get that the baby plants are more susceptible, so that’s to be expected somewhat, but they really seem to have it out for my kale.  I found this gorgeous guy on my adult kale a couple of weeks ago:

He was so purdy that I didn’t want to kill him, so I just relocated him and everything was fine for a while.  The kale looked hale and hearty, as it does in the photo above.  But then, in the span of one day, it was completely reduced to its skeleton by these little fuckers:

WHAT ARE YOU, YA LITTLE BASTARD?!

My pinky finger next to two of the culprits, for size comparison.

I pulled 100+ off just the one kale plant – or what was left of it – and then ended up just pulling the whole kale because they had destroyed it.  I was hoping to not have to put any insecticides on my veggies – natural or otherwise – but it’s becoming obvious that I’m going to have to do something.

Don’t get me wrong: I love me some butterflies, and I’ve been so excited to see them flitting around my garden.  Some monarchs were hanging around my butterfly weed and passion vine, as well as a host of other species.  But since I’m no entomologist, I have no idea what the other species are/were.  I found this little one dead in my plumeria pot:

I wonder where she laid her eggs?  Is she responsible for the death of my kale?  Or was she populating my passion vine?  Because not long after I found her, I found these, and many others:

Chrysalis!

Orange and black spiky caterpillar!

These little orange and black guys have eaten the shit out of my passion vine, but that’s what they’re supposed to do, so I’m ok with that.  If only you could explain to caterpillars that everything in the garden is at their disposal except for the vegetables.  *sigh*  Then I wouldn’t have to smoosh any of them.

But you know what’s even better than butterflies?  Praying mantids.  That’s what.  When I was in 4H in high school, I took an entomology class, and the teacher asked each of us what our favorite insect was.  The boys were all, “Beatles! Roaches! Wasps! Spiders!”  The girls were all, “Ladybugs! Butterflies!”  I said, “Praying mantids.”  The teacher’s face lit up, and he said, “You should be an entomologist!  Every entomologist loves mantids.”  THAT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE AWESOME, 4H ENTOMOLOGY TEACHER.  Duh.  I found one of my babies a few days ago, except he’s no baby anymore.  Look at him!

So big!

So cute!

One of my hundreds of little boys is all growed up!

The pond has undergone some pretty dramatic changes as well.  Perhaps the most noteworthy was also the most ephemeral.  A few weeks ago, we had a major rain storm, with flash floods happening all across central Texas.  My own little pond flash flooded and filled up to its tippy-top.

Mega rain!

Water all the way up to the fence!

It was thrilling to see the pond do its job and catch all the run-off water.  The extra dose of oxygen in the pond water was also particularly welcome.  But the next morning, something peculiar happened to the pond:

When I walked out the next morning, it looked like there was a green film on the pond’s surface.  I wondered: are they suds? Did soap somehow get into the water?  Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that the “film” was millions of microscopic critters!  And they hopped!  Some friends of mine came over that afternoon, and I showed them the mysterious new pond residents who moved in overnight.  One of them belongs to an entomological forum, so he took some of the critters, photographed them under a microscope, and posted them to the forum to have them identified.  It turns out that my visitors are called “springtails”, and they look like this:

Aren’t they adorable?  Of course, not a single one lived to see the next day.  All my fishies and tadpoles thought they were manna from heaven, and had a field day.  By sunset, they had all been eaten.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough predators around who seem interested in eating any of my tadpoles and fish!  It’s not that I have some burning desire for my pond babies to die, but there is such a thing as too many of them!  Another mosquitofish laid more eggs, so now I have a second batch of babies, and the first batch still aren’t full grown yet.  And the tadpoles…well, you saw the pictures.  There are hundreds of them.

So, I took a couple of batches down to Barton Springs to go find their way in the real world.  Some will get eaten; some will grow up; all will at least get a chance at living in the “real world”.  I took pictures of the first batch I harvested.  It was funny how most of the mosquitofish hung out near the surface and most of the tadpoles hung out at the bottom!

Believe it or not, these guys are only a small fraction of the ones who ended up staying in my pond.  The majority of them still live here.

Here’s the thing: I think they all survived because they were eating my koi food.  As soon as I’d put it in the water, the little babies would converge on a piece, drag it underwater, and then eat little pieces as it disintegrated in the water.

I think they imagine themselves fearsome alligator-like predators, dragging their prey underwater.

Whatever the case, a couple of weeks ago I noticed that they started to grow legs and come up out of the water.

“A whole new world! A dazzling place I never knew! But when I’m way up here, it’s crystal clear, that now I’m in a whole new world with you…my hundreds of siblings.”

They even started doing exactly what you’d expect frogs and toads to do: hang out on lily pads:

Just hangin’ out at mah pad.

And now, I have no more tadpoles.  Chicken and Fish are all grown up, too, although still very shy, so I rarely see them.  Now, instead, I have hundreds upon hundreds of little tiny baby toads hopping around my garden.  Unlike Chicken and Fish, they’re easy to catch, albeit mostly not thrilled that you caught them.  But this little guy didn’t seem to mind.  He even high-fived my thumb:

As if to say, “High five, bro-ette. Good catch.”

So now, the koi have a lot more room in their pond, now that they no longer have hundreds of roommates.  They seem pretty stoked about this new development.  Sushi isn’t nearly as much of a recluse as he used to be, although I don’t know if that’s because the tadpoles are gone or if he’s just getting more comfortable in his environment.  Maybe it’s a little of both, but even before all the tadpoles had fully left, he and Yin seemed to have developed a bond similar to Yang and Ceviche’s.  I caught them hanging out the other day, and Sushi had his fin over Yin’s back.

Is that like a fish hug?

And even more recently, I was able to get a super closeup picture of three of them–the closest I’ve been able to get yet.  They’re getting bolder, less afraid of the surface of the water, less afraid of me, less afraid of everything.  I had just put some lettuce from the garden into the pond to see if they’d eat it, and these three came right up to investigate:

Yang, Yin, and Sushi, chowing down. I don’t know where Ceviche was.

Aren’t my babies beautiful?  Sadly, I don’t think they should be my babies for much longer.  I’ve been reading more about them, and they need a deeper, colder, cleaner pond than I can provide.  I was going to build an even bigger pond in the backyard for when they got older, but it would need to be four feet deep and eight feet long, and I can’t do that.  And this pond is getting greener as summer progresses, which is not healthy for koi.  Apparently they can get ulcers and parasites if they live in the environment I’ve built for them.  I tried to put a pump and filter in the pond (you can see the hose in a few of the pictures above), but the outlet in my front yard doesn’t work, so I have no electricity to power them.  😦  So, I’m trying to find a good home for my koi.  I can’t tell you how sad it makes me.  I’m so attached to the little buggers!  But I’d rather see them be happy and healthy somewhere else than stay with me, only to get sick and die.  *sigh*  I should have gotten goldfish.  On the other hand, I don’t regret getting these guys, because I’ve had so much fun getting to know them and have learned so much about these fascinating creatures!  And I’m sure goldfish will be fun, too!

My religious beliefs, in a nutshell, as written by Dan Harmon.

During a conversation on Facebook today, a friend of a friend of mine posted a link to Dan Harmon’s blog entry about his religious views–and I have to say, I couldn’t have said it better myself.  This pretty much perfectly sums up what I believe:

http://www.myspace.com/unspeakablesadness/blog/412530382

“At Erin’s party on Friday, Myke “Bertrand Russel” Chilian came bounding up to me with this disappointed smirk on his face and “confronted” me about this rumor he’d just heard that I believe in God.

Nobody hears me when I explain this, I feel like I’m talking into a paper bag:  The phrase “believe in God” is beneath me, that’s how awesome I am. 

This is my explanation of my point of view on religion that I’m now pulling out all the time.  You can disagree with it but don’t try to tell me it’s not what I think:

If “believing in God” is Coca Cola and “not believing in God” is Pepsi, then the “corn syrup” that unites them, the poison that slips through disguised as dichotomy, is mediocrity.  Unremarkability.  Inhumanity.  That’s what people who “don’t believe in God” and people who “believe in God” have in common.  They all think you’re limited, and they’re all inviting you into their limited world where you can realize how limited you are.

Human beings do not come out of the womb having to decide what to think.  They come out just thinkin’, the way Rambo comes out killin’, it’s as easy as breathin’. 

Society then [understandably] tells them they have to use their natural thinking power tomake decisions, decisions that keep them from getting hit by cars and arrested and stuff.  In the real world.  Fine.  I agree. Make a decision at a stop sign.  Make a decision about using condoms, or, in the event that you don’t make that decision, decide who you invite to your wedding or who to tell about your abortion.  Think real hard and make a decision about whether or not to record Nylon Nymphos 3 or Law and Order.  It’s got to be one or the other and it’s going to make a difference because you’re either going to be cumming into a rag or…well, okay, you’re going to be cumming into a rag no matter what but you might be doing it while watching Sam Waterston’s closing arguments.

There are 9,000,000,000 decisions you have to make to get through this life.  God isn’t one of them.  That’s not what he’s either there or not there for.  He’s there or not there to be there and/or not there, not to be there or not there.

Mentally, by default, we are graceful, powerful creatures of limitless potential and we are as capable of living comfortably within mystery and paradox as we are capable of drinking water instead of Coke or Pepsi.  It’s riiiiight there.  It’s the easiest thing in the world.  It is the natural state of your incredibly beautiful human mind to be simultaneously aware of completely contradictory thoughts.

Mythology is our expression of that fact, an [attempted] reconciling of the infinite with the finite, an [attempted] surfing of the whirling spiral created by our consciousness of our own mortality. 

Gods are personifications of that which we have yet to understand.  The fact that we are able to give That Which We Do Not Yet Understand a name and a face is the reason why we’re able to confront it, atone with it, and wield its power, which is another way of saying that mythology begets science, which begets us standing around at parties with the free time and laser-corrected vision to look down our noses at personifications of the unknown created by busier people who knew less and died younger. 

And yes, they were very silly people, those that came before us, with their flat Earth and their leeches and their please-confess-to-not-being-Jewish-or-we’ll-sew-your-butt-closed and their stop-being-schizophrenic-or-we’ll-blame-you-for-our-souflet-falling and all kinds of horrible things.  But that is not the fault of That Which We Do Not Know.  On the contrary, the witch burnings, the inquisitions, the highly inaccurate maps depicting everything past Portugal as a giant octopus and the highly uncomfortable taxonomical hierarchies justifying the ownership of people with different hairstyles, these are crimes committed by hubris, by refusal to acknowledge, let alone surrender, to That Which We Do Not Yet Know.

That Which We Do Not Yet Know is still a minimum of 50% of every conversation we have, every room at the party and every minute of our lives, which is why nobody gets a pat on the back from me for pretending it’s not there.  What you’ll probably get is an ulcer, but it’s none of my business and I’m not a doctor.

There is such a thing as a perfectly healthy, self-actualized atheist.  I’ve met them.  They’re not all that pissed off at other people’s religions and they don’t devote a lot of energy condescending to primitive mythologies.  When you are a genuinely smart person with respect for scientific method, the confidence it brings is rarely characterized by a need to disprove people’s personifications of the unknown.  Science is founded on the principle that there’s a great deal left to be known and a great deal to be gained by knowing it.  So when you fold your arms and talk about everything you already know, and get up in my shit about how differently I should be thinking, I don’t care if you work for NASA or Billy Graham, I don’t exactly feel like I’m in the presence of a mentor.  I kind of feel like your Mom and Dad were as dopey as everyone else’s but you haven’t gotten over it, yet.

Do you have to call everything you don’t know “God?”  Hell no, baby, you don’t have to do anything.  The big question is, now that you know you don’t have to do anything, what are you going to do with that freedom and power?  Nothing would be cool with me, I’m mostly a Taoist, I can roll with doing nothing.  Something would be equally cool, provided it was something you wanted to do.  We call the moment when a character realizes they don’t have to do anything the “mid point.”  It’s half a story.  The second half of a full story involves knowing what you want to do and doing it. 

And I’m telling you, not because I’m good at it, but because we have been told this for 5,000 years now, knowing what you want to do and doing it involves a relationship with That Which You Do Not Yet Know.  A really intimate relationship with a lot of slappin’ and kissin’.
  
Like the relationship Tom Hanks had with that volleyball in that movie where he got cast away.  It was very helpful for Tom Hanks to give that volleyball a name and a face.  It helped him be less lost and fix his tooth with a rock and get home to his ice cubes and icky face acting lady.  The process of getting from A to B was aided, for the audience and the character, by the character having something with which to commune.

So, are you going to float down to Tom Hanks’ island and pop his volleyball and explain to him that it’s not a person?  If you’re that guy, here’s some rhetorical questions for you:

1) Do you think Tom Hanks doesn’t know it’s just a volleyball?
2) Are you going to replace his instinctive mythology with something, or 
3) Is your job done when everyone’s buzz is killed?
4) Are you really doing this to help other people, or
5) Does this have something to do with your own empowerment, and if so
6) Do you think fighting something is the most effective way to gain power, or
7) Is it possible to attain something’s power by surrendering to it?

Which brings me around to my corn syrup conspiracy point, which is that when everyone’s given a “choice” between a life of religion and a life of science, what they’re really being told is that they have no choice but to believe they have to choose.  To choose in which manner they are limited.  Someone’s got to be dictating your margins, is it gonna be math or the pope.  You’re not allowed to define right and wrong, you’re not allowed to draw your own map of the cosmos.  

And I say that is a limited world, for limited people. 

I mean, if I make the statement that there is no God, I get a bunch of people with calculators agreeing with me.  Okay, could be worse.  Like if I made the statement that there is a God and he looks like Santa Claus but his suit is purple, in which case I get a bunch of high strung hillbillies and fat teenagers that haven’t tried marijuana on my side.

But if I make the statement that I, Dan Harmon, am God, then I get a lot of hillbillies and calculator people booing in unison and high fiving each other.  Because those people aren’t so different, not in the way that matters to ME.  From my perspective, they’re all on the Dan Harmon is Not Capable of Greatness Team.  Fuck those guys.  Every vote in that election is a vote against me, I won’t pick a side in the battle to decide why I’m a useless piece of shit.

I say, mythology is about man becoming one with the unknown, and in order for that to happen, you have to personify the unknown- which is very religious and not very scientific- and you have to then know that unknown – which is very scientific and somewhat sacreligious in the eyes of modern so-called Christianity, which, in spite of its name, has nothing to do with man-becoming-God and everything to do with belonging to a global cult of selfish, lazy, gluttonous, sanctimonous, xenophobic cowards.

In Myke’s defense, his family is a bunch of foreigners, which can only mean that their version of Christianity was probably forced on their ancestors through the barrel of a gun or some kind of Happy Meal, and was therefore all the more fraudulent and therefore all the more forced around the dinner table, and he needs to run all the further from it all the faster to become a good person, and how old is Chilian, really?  His band still gets together for rehearsals, that means he’s under 30, so why am I defending myself from the supposedly worthless derision of an Armenian teenager when I could be finishing my screenplay that’s so good when he reads it he’ll have no choice but to believe in God.

I just don’t appreciate the implication that there’s anything I don’t know about – oh, crap, busted.  I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m just arrogant and blocked.  I feel unblocked now, though.  Thank you, God!”

And thank YOU, Dan Harmon. (And also, thank you Teighlor for showing me this link!)

News From the Garden

It’s funny that I kind of lost interest in this blog until I started gardening, and now I want to blog about it all the time.  To (mis)quote Anne of Green Gables, “If you only knew how much I want to blog about my garden and don’t, you’d give me some kind of credit!”

But anyway,  much has been happening in the garden lately.  First of all, a little house sparrow family made a nest on one of the columns of my porch, and the babies fledged a few days ago.  I walked out one day, and there they were!

For a few days, every time I went outside, they’d be hanging out somewhere in the garden.  I got kind of fond of the little dudes.  I even had heart palpitations when I found them hiding among the rocks of the pond; I was so afraid they’d fall into the water!

I got to know the crew a bit during the time that they were hanging out, and I really came to admire the critters.  The eldest was very adept at flying already, while the middle one was pretty good but couldn’t gain a lot of height, and the youngest couldn’t do more than flit around a few feet at a time.  He was also the least skittish; a few times I was able to pet him, and he even hopped onto my hand once.  What was sweet was that, while the parents were too scared to come attack The Big Scary Beast Who Kept Messing With Their Baby, the eldest sibling would bravely stay near the two younger ones, and would keep a watchful eye on me.  The parents would be fussing their fool heads off in the tree above, but the eldest sibling wouldn’t go any further away than the fence at my eye level:

"I am staying at your eye level so I can peck your eyes out if you try to hurt my baby brother, yo."

The youngest kid even started coming out of hiding when I’d come out and call to them.  One day, the other two were hanging out under my herb wheelbarrow, and I couldn’t find the youngest.  I started to get worried that maybe he’d been eaten by a stray cat, or drowned in the pond, or something like that.  But when I started talking to the siblings, asking where the youngest was, he hopped out from behind the morning glory cage and chirping:

"Here I am! Right here! I'm not dead! I was just back here chillin'."

So, yeah, I got attached to the little buggers.  A few days after they showed up in the garden, they had all learned to fly well enough that they moved up into the tree.  I still see them flying around once in a while, or one of them will land on the fence and watch me work in the garden, but gone are the days of hanging out with them so close.  *sigh*  Here’s a video I took of them hanging out together, being cute:

Those aren’t the only babies in my garden, though!  Yesterday, my pond exploded:

See all those little black dots? Tadpoles.

At first I thought they were baby Mosquitofish, because one of my females was about to lay eggs when I bought her (or so the store employees told me), so I just assumed that these were her offspring.  But then a friend of mine, who knows a lot more about pond life than I do, told me they were tadpoles.  Admittedly, they look a lot like tadpoles, and that did cross my mind when I first saw them.  But I never imagined it was possible.  Because, I mean, the big mystery is: HOW IN THE HECK DID THEY GET THERE?  My two tadpoles, whom I named Chicken and Fish, still had their tails as of last week (although, admittedly, Chicken’s was all but gone), so they are obviously too young to have parented these little dudes.  But how in the heck did they get there?  My friend told me that some toads probably found their way to my pond, but I was doubtful.  I live a block from two major highways, in a neighborhood with no water (other than my new pond) and very little plant life of any kind.  Every yard is separated by privacy fences.  And the closest body of water is two miles away (across major highways in every direction).  I just didn’t think it was possible for a toad, much less multiple toads, to have crossed highways, dug under multiple fences, and found their way to my humble little spot of water.  But oh, they did.  And I found one of the suckers hanging out in my pond today:

Way too old to be Chicken or Fish, unless toads can get progeria.

I will never cease to be amazed by the amazing journey this little dudette made to come lay her eggs here, but hey, she’s welcome to stay.  She can help keep the insect population down to a dull roar.  Maybe someday I’ll write a children’s book about her adventure.

My koi babies are thriving as well!  I’ve given them names and gotten to know their little personalities.  I named the yellow-and-white one Sushi, the orange-and-white one Ceviche, and, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, the blue ones with the orange spot on their tail and head are named Yin and Yang, respectively.  I had originally had their names switched, but swapped names when I got to know their personalities a little better.  Yang (who was originally Yin) is a fiery little dude.  Within days of being placed in my pond, he and Ceviche formed a bond and started boldly darting around the pond together, hanging out in areas of open pond, even coming to the surface, even in daylight.  Yin, on the other hand, is much less energetic and less bold.  He mostly stays under the lotus pot, or occasionally will hang out under one of the rocky crags or a cluster of lotus leaves.  When he does come out, he pokes out his head first, looks around, the slowly ventures out.  The slightest change in environment will send him darting back under the pot.  He finds safety in numbers, and will only venture around the pond by sticking close to Yang and Ceviche.  I have never seen him out by himself.  Sushi, on the other hand, is a loner.  Whereas the other three have chosen beneath the lotus pot as their home, Sushi chooses to live underneath the iris pot all by himself.  He swims by himself, plays by himself, and only joins the others when I feed them.  He’s my little lone wolf.  He’s also super fast.  I’ve tried multiple times to take pictures of him because he’s so beautiful, but this is the best I’ve been able to get:

It's hard to tell, but he's kind of in the center of the picture, between the lotus pot and its lily pads. Ceviche is hanging out just above and to the right of him. It was feeding time.

But just for reference, this is the closest image I could find of a koi that looks like him:

Except, you know, this dude's an adult.

I also realized that I know literally nothing about koi, which officially makes me one of those irresponsible people who buys animals without knowing anything about them.  I should have known better, but the employees at the store acted like it was no big deal and super easy to keep them and blahblahblah–but then again, how many pet store employees act that way about birds?  Why didn’t I even think about that?  So now I’m trying to catch up and learn as much about them as I can.  For instance, I learned that Sushi and Ceviche’s coloration is called “hariwake”, and Yin and Yang’s coloration is called “kage showa”.  I learned that they can live up to 50 years (!!) (apparently, I like to keep animals who can outlive me).  I learned that I can feed them snacks of worms, fruits, and vegetables (FUN!!!).  I learned that they don’t tolerate hot water, so I’m going to have to find a way to shade my pond before summer hits.  I learned that they don’t tolerate cold water (below 50 degrees), either, so I’ll have to get a pond heater before next winter.  Plus, I learned that they are easily victimized due to their bright colors, so some kind of shade or screen will also be necessary to prevent predators from seeing them and eating them.  What have I gotten myself into?!  Now I know how people feel when they get a bird without doing their research first.  BUT!  I will do whatever it takes to make my babies happy, comfortable, and enriched.  I was planning on building a bigger pond in the backyard when the landlord builds the fence back there, anyway, so they’ll have a bigger, deeper home to go to when they start to outgrow this smaller pond.  In the meantime, we’re just going to have to make the best of this little pond that we have!

Here’s a video I shot of the Three Stooges hanging out together.  As per usual, Sushi was nowhere to be found:

 

Another new development in Gardenland is that I got a Venus Fly Trap the other day when I was at the Great Outdoors.  I had wanted to get some carnivorous plants to go around the pond to help with insect control, but then was scared off by reading how difficult they are to keep alive in this part of the world.  But when I saw them in the green house, so cute and only $6, I thought, what the heck, I’ll just get one and see how it does.  I have a rainwater collection barrel, so I can give it that water and hopefully not kill it.  Well, two weeks into this experiment, so far so good!

This little bugger eats bugs as fast as it can, and hasn’t been all that much work.  I just spritz it with a little rain water every other day or so and it seems happy as a clam.  We’ll see how it fares as the summer heat sets in, but so far this experiment has been a success.

That’s about it from my garden.  The monarch butterflies have arrived, and have been inspecting my wares.  It remains to be seen whether they make any of my butterfly-friendly plants their home.  I hope they do!  How cool would that be?!

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