Garden, August 19

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August has been hot and damp enough to make the garden defy taming. We also are in the middle of a sidewalk construction project whose end is unknown due to the weather. Today I offer a few shots of the garden, even though it had become overgrown and somewhat wild.

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Surrender

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I’ve been remiss in creating updates about my garden because parts of our yard are literally under construction due to changes in drainage and expansions to our sidewalks. The tension I’ve felt over this project has been out of proportion to the event itself. Trying to pinpoint when an outdoor construction will take place is about as productive as guessing exactly when the cable repair person will arrive. The timing and shape of the event defies prediction.

I’ve suggested to my husband that we could have sped up the start of the sidewalk project by telling the contractor not to arrive on a certain morning because we’d be sleeping in due to some fictional day trip that had occurred the day before. I think he was just a bit offended over this suggestion, like I’d betrayed one of his clan. He himself has a job involving a bit of outdoor construction with a schedule is subject to the whims of weather and emergent repairs. The thought that fiction could tame the chaos of such work may have sounded outrageous to him.

In the time I’ve been away from this blog, I’ve had some “teachable” moments that have made me consider that I need a full-scale re-calibration of how I think of others and my place in this world. I suppose there’s no point in relating a story whose principle characters can’t be defined with precision, but I will tell you that I’ve recently been reminded that alcohol, negativity, and anger have nothing of value to offer.

I have no problem avoiding alcohol. There have been some years in this century in which I haven’t had a single drink with alcohol. In other years, I’ve had drinks a handful of times. I learned through personal experience and witnessing the alcoholism of family members that alcohol at best offers empty, fleeting joy and at worst leads to destruction. That’s not a popular point of view in this era, but it is one that is important to me.

For me, what is harder to avoid is the seductive force of anger and negativity. I think that anger is the easiest emotion to convey. It is easy to think that there’s strength to be drawn from anger and sarcasm, that one can emerge victorious by “telling it like it is.”

I’ve seen someone else self-destruct in negativity, and I’m taking a step back and noticing that I’m not so far behind that individual in the darkness of my feelings and thoughts. Lately when I’ve thought of many people I know in real life, I’ve done so to find the faults in those people. The habit reminds me of that moment when King Lear goes mad and proclaims, “Then let them anatomize Regan; see what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?” (King Lear, 3:6:76-78).

The problem with “anatomizing” the people you know is that it becomes a mutual process. By focusing on the faults of others, you open yourself to much of the same criticism. The more cutting the judgement, the harder it is to resist sharing those thoughts. It is so tempting to get a laugh out of revealing how deluded and wrongheaded someone else is, always when the person commented upon is never close enough to hear your words. It is inevitable that people will eventually start talking about you when you leave the room, too. Eventually you’ll find out what those words are.

In real life, I’ve learned that I’ve failed to convince many (but not all) people that my chronic pain is real. It doesn’t matter that I have medical proof of the cause of my pain. The MRI’s and procedure records may as well not exist. Opinions about my parenting and my daughter are more divided. Some (again, but not all) people think my daughter doesn’t really have autism, that I’ve given her autism through bad parenting, or that I’ve failed to correct her autism through lack of discipline.

Long story short, silence is almost always the best choice when you notice the faults of other people. To give these things a voice invites a harsh verdict of yourself. Is there a greater emptiness than the no-holds-barred opinion others may have of you?

There is great truth and wisdom this the age-old advice:”If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

It is hard to be kind and easy to be mean. I’ve struggled so much with pain and uncertainty in the past two years that I’ve made the easy choice all too often. The harvest of these moments when I thought I’d been so clever to say what everyone else must be thinking has only been alienation and depression.

So I take my first steps into the light. I will try to think of no one unless those thoughts are kind. Likewise, I will try not to dwell on my failures of the past and present and the unknowns of the future. I will hope for a better harvest.

Summer Photo Walk, July 28

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This morning I traveled to Kendrick Woods to see how the wildflowers are faring. We’ve had unreliable rainfall and higher than average temperatures throughout most of the summer this year, so I expected the wildflower prairie to look a bit different this year. As expected, the prairie was not quite as abundant as I’ve seen it in the past. However, there were plenty enough blooms to justify the trip.

Now is the time the wild sunflowers reign. Different varieties will take their turn blooming until the first frost. I also spotted some dame’s rocket and wild indigo, whose pods will age into purple-black before summer’s end. I looked up the red wildflower and found that is called Silene virginica, or fire pink.

Garden, July 22

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This weekend we received some much-needed rain and cooler temperatures. The turn in weather bore hints of fall, which I would whole-heartedly embrace if not for the turmoil I feel within when thinking of what fall may hold for us this year. It’s no good to consider the future with worry over what could go wrong, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m terribly worried that we’ll have another school year that my daughter will barely tolerate. I keep telling myself that it’s utterly counterproductive to think in such a way, that worry improves the future about as well thought alone can make the hands of a clock move faster.

Last week I read Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities for the very first time. I’ll try not to spoil the plot for those of you who haven’t read this classic, but I will mention that there is a poignant reverie wherein one of the characters imagines some glorious aspects of a future that stretches across several generations. Perhaps it is not natural for anyone to think so far into the future, but I found that I could not or would not think more than two to three years into the future. To look any further seems like delving into a choose-your-own-adventure where the choices seem impossible to make.

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Bud and L’Orange

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Our guinea pigs L’Orange and Bud moved into a larger, shared cage this week. We ordered one of those open-top “C&C” (cubes and coroplast) cages from GuineaPigCagesStore.com. If you are also blessed with guinea pigs, I highly recommend an enclosure of this type for your critters. It’s possible to make a cage yourself by ordering the cubes, connectors, and coroplast separately, but I decided to simplify the process by ordering a kit that contained all the necessary supplies to create a 30″x44″ cage. The kit was easy to assemble. Our guineas were running around inside the finished cage within a half-hour of the kit’s delivery.

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Last Night’s Dream

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Dreams are notorious in their capacity to slip from waking memory. I’ve already detailed what I can remember of last night’s dream to husband, dad, and sister. In writing about it, I hope to cement it a bit more to my memory. Or maybe this recounting is pointless, and the dream will surrender to its keeping about as well as my hair would submit to the hold of Aqua Net hairspray. Which reminds me that I failed at 80’s Big Hair. No matter how much extra super hold hairspray I used, the volume on the crown of my head would collapse within 90 minutes.

Last night’s dream does hearken to the Big Hair era in some ways, even though no one had lofty hair in the dream. Within this dream, my family reunited to the place where we lived during a time when perms were almost mandatory. Back then, we lived in a large second story apartment that had once been a convent. The apartment was situated on the grounds of a Catholic church where my dad worked as a maintenance man/groundskeeper. The first floor of the building housed a massive boiler, so at the time I hoped that we’d never get snowed in long enough for any of us to go the way of Jack Torrance/Nicholson in The Shining.

In the dream, we were planning to meet at the apartment for reasons unknown to my rational mind. I just knew I had to get there. Since I know next to nothing of the principles of architecture, my dream buildings have only minimal fidelity to reality. Schools and churches morph into malls or airports. The homes of my memory fuse into homes of people we once knew. In this dream, our church apartment was stuck to one of the school buildings, and part of an amusement park split the parking lot.

I had to walk through the basement of the grade school building to get to the apartment. On the way, I passed several children who had stock-photo perfection, with clear skin and perfect smiles. One of the girls asked who I was and seemed completely enthralled to meet someone who once lived at her school. I also encountered my sixth-grade teacher who lost several toes in a mowing accident and in real life left teaching to┬ádevote herself full-time to her local chain of donut/pizza shops named after herself (the shops are still popular, by the way). How anyone possibly has the time to teach full-time and oversee four restaurants is beyond me. It’s not like she did this all by herself, but I still wonder how her days ever ended. Now she’s retired, sold the restaurants, and she still makes time to appear in her former students’ dreams. Catholic school was full of people who accomplished impossible levels of multi-tasking.

So there I was talking to my teacher-who-never-slept, and I noticed that she was a perfected version of herself. Her Carol-Brady-minus-the-bottom-layer hairdo had stunning highlights, and her face had that wrinkle-free Snapchat glow. She told me, “When your daughter was in my third-grade class, I already knew she had autism, but it wasn’t my place to speak those words.”

What? I don’t think she ever taught third grade. My daughter never went to that school. Such are the mysteries of dreams.

Then I had to rush to the apartment to meet my family. I could see that security gates were descending from the ceiling in the school(another feature which doesn’t correspond to reality), and I started running to get through the building before I was trapped overnight.

I reached the apartment and met my mom and brother. I didn’t consider where my dad and sister might be. What the point of this meeting? To see each other in the apartment once more?

When I turned to leave, I noticed that the old front door had appeared. For whatever reason, we had to walk through the school to enter the apartment, but we could leave as we did in real life. I tried opening the door and walking down the metal steps to the parking lot, but I was terrified by two things in the parking lot, a roller coaster track and a massive water tower. Like many people, I am somewhat afraid of heights, but my bass-ackwards acrophobia makes me more afraid to look up at something high than to look down from a height. The sight of that water tower had the proverbial train wreck quality to it. It was taller than any water tower had the right to be (tall enough that there was a foggy haze between it and the ground) and it had five massive bulbs to store water, one in the center and four others arranged like points on a compass. The metal arms holding the four outside tanks looked too small to hold their weight. I walked back into the apartment, afraid that one of the massive water tanks would crash to the ground.

So then I did something absurd. My brother told me that there was a vague threat of a terrorist attack and that there might be an airlift to evacuate the wary. So I went out to the balcony where we used to keep a container garden, and I didn’t have to wait long for a helicopter to retrieve me. The inside of the helicopter was silent as an elevator and turbulence free. I looked down once I knew we were well past the water tower of doom, and I felt peace as I saw massive highways recede into the distance. The highways near Lima aren’t massive in reality.

And that is what I remember of the dream.